“Gallimauphry” is great 16th century French term for “a jumble of things” or as we might say “this and that”. You never know what I’ll post on the final Friday of the month.
I tried an experiment last night on Instagram. I’d toned this 24x4o” canvas panel with raw sienna yesterday and plan to post the work in progress. Instagram has become known as a must-see/must-do place for artists and buyers since it’s the most purely image-oriented social media platform. So I thought it would be amusing to post a blank canvas and see what happens. In two hours I had eight Likes and this morning, about twelve hours later, there were fifteen, which is about what I get, give or take, for images of actual paintings. A few more will probably show up before it moves down the queue. What I think is going on is that people like seeing artist’s studios and watching their process, but I still think this is amusing. So if you’re on Instagram and want to follow along or if you’re not yet and are going to sign up, you can find me here. Come on along!
In other news, my drawing “Relaxed (African Lion)” has been accepted into the Salmagundi Club‘s historic “Black and White Exhibition”! It was shipped off to New York yesterday.
The main reason for my road trip to Wyoming at the beginning of last month was to attend the Susan K. Black Foundation Workshop for the first time in too many years. My travels to Mongolia have often gone into September and the workshop is always the second week so that it will be right after the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival. But this year I was home by the end of July.
In every good way, nothing had really changed and the welcome I got was touchingly warm. What sets this workshop apart is that there are always a number of instructors and one can bounce around between them as one wishes. You can learn from painters in oil, acrylic and watercolor. Plus, this year, sculptors. Even better, anyone who has been an instructor is permanently invited to come back every year and many do, so it’s equal parts workshop, a reunion of artist friends and colleagues and a gathering of the animal art and landscape clans. All in an informal environment with great food and terrific scenery at the Headwaters Arts and Conference Center in Dubois, Wyoming, which is about 90 minutes from Jackson.
There’s always a Special Guest Instructor and this year it was none other than James Gurney of Dinotopia fame. He also presides over one of the most popular art blogs in the internet, Gurney Journey, and has written what has become a standard book on the subject “Color and Light”. His endlessly inventive ways to work on location have been a real inspiration for me personally. So I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to watch him in action.
There were plenty of opportunities to work on location, including a couple of local ranches.
One of the best parts of the workshop is the good times with artist friends and colleagues, often in the evening at the local saloon, the Rustic Pine Tavern.
Besides working out on location, attendees could also do studio painting.
One of the highlights of the week is the “Quick Draw”, which is actually a “Pretty Quick Paint”. It’s a great chance to watch a lot of very accomplished artists in action at once, creating auction and raffle-worthy work in front of a large crowd, including fellow artists.
The final evening was an entertainment-packed extravaganza, starting with two suspiciously familiar faces who introduced themselves as Sir Charles Willoughby, who somehow had to keep order (good luck with that), and Chip Chippington (all the sleazy game show hosts you’ve ever seen rolled into one hilarious package).
The fun started with a quiz to identify which instructor various species of dinosaurs were named after…
And I’m sorry to say that by this time I was laughing too much to get any pics of the rest of the show.
The night was capped by open mic performances, including one by the awesome kitchen staff.
There was a point during the early part of the evening when a slide show was shown of various attendees and instructors sporting a really impressive variety of hats. Getting into the spirit after the lights came up, James Gurney popped one of his Dept. of Art traffic cones (used to create space around where he is working on location in urban areas) on his head…
“But how do I know when it’s finished?”….is one of the many plaintive cries of the painting student.
There are probably almost as many answers as there are painting teachers.
And I think it depends on how far down the road of understanding an artist has gone. I know it has changed for me over the sixteen years that I have been painting.
These days, I have a pretty good idea of what problems I need to solve and how I’m going to do it. Once I have, voila, the painting is done.
However, as students and new painters are battling on many fronts at once, it’s easy to keep going and going and going…..until, well, It’s Dead, Jim.
But, once again, dipping randomly into one of my old art instruction books, this time “Outdoor Sketching” by F. Hopkinson Smith, I find another method, effective but probably not well known. The book is a presentation of four talks that he gave at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1914. Wish I’d been there. This excerpt is from his talk on Composition.
“The requirements are thoughtful and well-studied selection before your brush touches your canvas; a correct knowledge of composition; a definite grasp of the problem of light and dark, or, in other words, mass; a free, sure, and untrammelled rapidity of execution; and, last and by no means least, a realization of what I shall express in one short compact sentence; that it takes two men to paint an outdoor picture: one to do the work and the other to kill him when he has done enough.”
Hopkinson Smith may have written the most interesting and witty book on outdoor sketching that most artists have never heard of. There will be more….
But in the meantime, here are some of his sketches from “Gondola Days”, which is in my personal library. As you will see, he knows whereof he speaks:
The Society of Animal Artists, of which I am a Signature member, has recently started a blog. On it you will find news about the Society, workshop and event listings by the members and a calendar of Society events. Check it out and let me know what you think!
We also now have a fan page on Facebook. You don’t have to join Facebook to visit us. And I invite you to visit our new website, too! It has information about our organization, exhibitions and how to become a member of the premier animal art organization.
Why Did The Elk Cross The Road Dept.
We went for a drive last weekend to find a spot from which to watch the sun set. The clouds rolled in, so that was kind of a bust, but at the Stone Lagoon Schoolhouse campground, which is right off the highway, a large herd of Roosevelt elk were working their way through the almost-empty RV section. We circled around on the campground road and ended up perfectly positioned for me to get some nice elk reference.
This is about twenty minutes north of our house. There are often elk hanging around the campground, sometimes picturesquely situated in front of the old schoolhouse.
Oh, Honey, Look What The Cat Brought In Dept.
We think of it as semi-regular episodes of Animal Planet. This time, a very alive little shrew was left on an area rug in the living room where we couldn’t miss it. I picked it up in a paper towel and got a couple quick pics before turning it loose outside. Their metabolism runs really fast, so they can’t go long without food and don’t do well under stress.
Too many non-painting tasks this morning. I’m usually at the easel by lunchtime, but not today. It’s something we all have to figure out- how to get everything done and still have time to do what we want and need to do, which is to make art.
So, I’m going to offer some quotes I like for a rainy afternoon in Humboldt County. And then GET PAINTING!
I think people who are not artists often feel that artists are inspired. But if you have to work at your art you don’t have time to be inspired. Out of work comes the work. John Cage
I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. That makes it hard to plan the day. E.B. White
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Scott Adams
The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do? Pablo Picasso
Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere. G.K. Chesterton
Buuz is one of the most popular foods in Mongolia. They are a small, round steamed “dumpling” with a mutton or beef filling. Mongols make (and eat) zillions of them for their holidays. Just for fun we had a “buuz party” a couple of weeks ago. One of the guests, and the chief buuz maker, was a young Mongol woman, Ganaa, who I met when I advertised for a Mongolian language tutor before my 2006 trip. Her husband is an American who she met when he was teaching English over there in the Peace Corps a few years ago.
I told everyone at the party the Mongol joke that I posted here last week as we scarfed down many buuz and some delicious salads. Ganaa then told us a story about how a family is all sitting around a table eating buuz. There is only one left on the platter when, suddenly, the lights go out. After a short time, the lights come back on and the solitary buuz is gone. Everyone looks at everyone else. Who took the last buuz?
This has apparently been a running joke in Mongolia for many years.
Here’s a photo of the first buuz I ever saw.
I was in western Mongolia, on my way back from the Khomiin Tal tahki reintroduction site. We stopped in a soum center (county seat equivalent) for lunch at this little buuz stand. The ladies made them to order and they were delicious! They were also somewhat bemused by my desire to take a picture of something so utterly ordinary (to them, of course). This was the first real Mongolian food I had ever had.