Thank you to all who came out Friday night for the exhibit opening! To learn more about these paintings and the sources of inspiration, search this blog using key words “Harbour Island.” You can also visit http://arttalkkabf.blogspot.com or click here to listen to artist, curator and radio host, Rachel Trusty, interview Laura about her work and about the current exhibit.
As an artist, learning new techniques and breaking bad habits is a neccessary part of the journey. When one struggles for months or even years to acheive a technical goal, the frustration can settle in like an univited guest who refuses to take leave at a reasonable hour. When I read that one of my favorite artists, Felicia Forte, was scheduled to teach a workshop at Warehoue 521 in Nashville, TN, I knew that a six hour drive was a minor hurdle and that I must attend despite a busy schedule at home.
During her demos, I began to understand what Forte deems as important, on a technical level, for a successful alla prima figure painting. Pay close attention to drawing the initial large shapes (“one look, one line”), to value, and to color. Think about how to paint each shape with the fewest brushstrokes as possible. As a teacher, Forte uses language with the same rich, saturated economy of her brushstrokes. “When you see someone down the street, you recognize them because of the largest shapes on the face and body, not because you can see the details. Always paint the largest shapes first.”
Best of all, on the first day of the workshop, she demonstrated four specific steps that helped her improve her own paintings. She was quite direct with every purposeful word she spoke and even told us HOW to be students. “Write this down. I want you to take notes. Later you will use the notes when you are painting.” “Take pictures so you can see the steps. I will ask you to use the snaps when you are painting so you can remember the steps while you learn something new.” “Next I will get more quiet. I will be painting. Just watch.” Her blunt language enabled her to do the best job she could while teaching and allowed us to do the best job we could while learning. I was tremendously grateful and impressed early in the first day of the three day workshop.
As a bonus, Forte allowed me to ask her the same questions about contemporary figure painting I asked gallery owners in the previous post. Talking with several gallery owners last week about contemporary figure painting was exciting and insightful. Now I’d hear the perspective of a rising star. While Forte’s current body of paintings is not strictly figurative, I wanted to pay attention to the similarities and differences between an artist perspective and that of a gallery.
Do you feel like there is a strong collector’s market for figure painting today? Is there anything specifically challenging about selling figurative work?
“It’s funny because…I have no idea. I mean, I’ve spent most of my time getting good at painting and teaching painting. The show I have now at Adend Gallery is the first big show I’ve done, as far as number of paintings. It is 25 paintings, many of which are not figurative. The gallery does say that since 2008 sales have been twice as difficult as before.”
In your opinion, what is the difference between a figure painting and a portrait?
“Well, I don’t think there is enough information in the question. A portrait can be a figurative painting and a figurative painting can be a portrait. It depends on the artist.”
What about when an art collector is admiring a painting and says something along the lines of not wanting a figure painting in their home unless they know the person in the painting? I hear this type of comment about my own work which makes me curious about the perceived difference between a portrait and a figurative painting.
“Either the artist is not educated or the collectors are not educated. Your question tells me that people need to be more educated about what’s happening in the art world today.”
Will you name a few contemporary figure painters you admire and tell us what you appreciate about their work?
“I like Emile Joseph Robinson who I wouldn’t call strictly a figurative painter. I’ve watched his progress during the last three or four years. He started with pastels, then went abstract and now he is coming back around and is more representational. He is curious, his work is unique and he is inspiring.”
“Daniel Sprick – he is just a master. I know that his work is unique and impressive and moving. But not moving in the same way as the first guy I mentioned. Robinson paints more like I like to paint myself. I do not paint like Daniel Sprick, but I admire him.”
Do you have any advice for emerging figure painters?
“Beyond the technical? Make sure you are painting for you first and foremost and not your idea of what the market wants. It will become not fun to do. I’d say, enter contests. It is a good way to thicken your skin, a good thing to do, there is a range of prestige in the available contests. In entering them, look at who the jurors are and see if it is worth your time or entry fee.”
“I’ve been conservative about putting stuff in galleries. I spend my time traveling to teach workshops and am not teaching regularly at home anymore. This gives me more time to paint, thus building the gallery career.”
“It usually takes longer and the path is much windier than you think it will be so be able to adjust.”
In summary, taking a workshop from an admired artist is an incredible opportunity to push yourself, learn new skills, and gain valuable insight. Thank you to Felicia Forte for honing your teaching skills, in addition to your painting skills, so students can learn more than they may have thought possible in a three day workshop. And thank you to Warehouse 521. In three short years, Jeanie Smith has developed an incredible program that attracts top artists from around the world. I’ll certainly keep my eye in the schedule and hope to return soon.
P.S. Below are some paintings from the workshop and from my studio. Ever since returning home, I’ve been practicing what we learned in the workshop. Bad habits are hard to break but I think I’m making some progress.
Continuation of previous post:
After two days in magnificent north Wales, we headed to Oxford for one day before visiting friends in London. In London, art rose to the top of the priority list, as the city is overflowing with superb, and free to the public, museums.
I hardly know where to begin with impressions of the newly reopened Tate Modern. I was initially confused and off balance (literally, the floors in one of the buildings are awkwardly sloped causing a strange senstation of movement or falling). But once I figured out the floor plan and made it to the galleries, I couldn’t supress my astonishment. The Guerilla Girls, thank goodness, are promintently dispalyed and lord knows they need to be heard.
There hangs “Carnival” one of my all time favorite Max Beckmann paintings. An extensive, insightful and wonderously dark Louise Bourgeios exhibit was quite a draw for the crowds. It made me so proud that Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, dispays one of her mammoth spiders. There is relatively lots of work on display by women artists such as the energetic painting by Lee Krasner (see below). There are several huge paintings by Luc Tuymans (who until now I’ve only seen in books). And check out this Peter Doig painting that makes me finally understand what the big fuss is about.
The Tate Modern is full of provocative, stunning art. It might be best to visit in the morning, go next door to The Globe for a Shakespeare play, eat a meal, and return to The Tate for a couple more hours of wandering. At least, that’s my plan for next time.
I often refer to viewing certain art works as akin to meeting a beloved, handsome super star. It leaves me giddy and breathless. Visiting The National Portrait Gallery during the recently hung BP Portrait Award was no exception. My daughters sat on a bench in the center of the largest gallery and watched (ok, I think they made fun of me) as I jumped from one painting to the next. This is the work I most admire. These are the artists I idolize. This annual exhibit showcases the content, the concepts, the materials and the techniques I strive to apply and master in my studio. Someday, oh someday, it would be a dream come true to have a piece accepted in the venerable competition; not for the accolades, but for the sheer satisfaction of developing a painting ability of such high quality. The exhibit contains numerous familial realtionships: several artists painted their sons. For the most part, the artists painted people they know well and it could be said that a theme of deep, intimate relationships domintes the exhibit. It was hard to choose which paintings to post – here are four of my favorite:
Just look at Tibbles ability to capture his son between boyhood and manhood. The soft edges and slight movement in the background over the young man’s left ear indicate to me the boy’s continued growth. He is not quite finished developing and figuring out who he is in his world. And look at Hogan’s self portrait in her studio. She so beautifully blends the figure with the space. We know that she is part of the space and the space is part of her being. Borowicz painted his son, Tad, whose bare chest, forward little shoulders, and out-turned ears draw viewers close. The innnocence, posture and skin evoke parental awe whether or not the viewer is a parent. One of my very favorites is by Jamie Coreth, whose subject is his father sculpting a bust of Jamie. This circular arrangment allows veiwers to delight in the relationship between a father and son, between a sculptor and painter, between art mimicking life and life mimicking art. The pointing devices throughout the composition, the direction of the eyes, the father’s hands upon the head of his son….all details that make this painting one to enjoy for hours, or a lifetime.
During our final two days in London, we were quite exhausted and visited two museums that require more engery than we could muster. That being said, I was utterly blown away by the thrill of seeing the Rosetta Stone at The British Museum. Written language is something I explore in my own work; therefore, I find any reference to the early written word to be exciting. The museum’s Mesopotamia displays, which include examples of early language, are hard to swallow in one visit. If given the opportunity to return to London, I will certainly visit The British Museum again (first thing in the morning, after a good night’s sleep!).
I would also like to return to The Victoria & Albert Museum. It was worth the effort to pop in after a morning at The Natural History Museum, although seeing the exhibit signs made me realize what we were missing. The architecture and back courtyard are worth a visit for those short on time, and the younger kids loved the wading pool which was a nice break in the afternoon.
Clearly, another trip to London is in order. There were many places, such as the Hunterian Museum, that we did not get to visit, and many places that require more time and attention. We did the best we could though before hopping on a northbound train…next up York and Manchester. Thanks for reading! Laura