Sunday, July 27, 2014

Castine Plein Air Festival - Day 3

Honorable Mention: "Severe Weather" 9x12 oil 

Morning

As I write, I'm sitting on the cool porch of our "summer cottage," enjoying the breeze and the sublime sense of release that comes after a hard morning and a hot shower.  I was up early - others were today, too - and down to the waterfront by 6.  After communicating with the world (despite the Cloud's vagaries), I lugged my French easel and a 12x24 panel to a remote part of the docks.

As much as I was thinking that, if I were to paint a larger piece, I wanted something easy, when I saw the view of the T/S State of Maine, I knew I had to paint it.  (And Trina rightfully urged me to try something a little more ambitious than a quiet cove.)  The scene was complicated.  It wasn't  just the rocket-nosed State of Maine, which lay like a Leviathan at dock, but maybe two dozen dinghies and a variety of sailboats, and it all became increasingly fractalized and daunting as I stared at it.  To make matters worse, it was Saturday morning, and on a summer weekend, there would no doubt be a lot of coming and going of boats.

But I knew this was the scene for me, and I set up.  To get the drawing right, I spent a great deal of time making a pencil sketch.  Even though much of this would disappear with my block-in, it was useful because it helped me figure out and memorize line, angle and proportion.   I simplified the scene greatly, removing all the dinghies but one small outboard craft, another with some sort of cowl over it, and then the tugboat and a line of smaller boats behind it.

I worked over three hours on the painting.  As I knew they would, boats came and went; the tide went up; people stopped by to watch or take photos (thank you for asking), and to ask a question or two about the event.  When I packed up, I realized how beat I was.  I treated myself to a very early lunch of fish'n'chips and then went home to frame and inventory.

Here are the steps in the painting process for "Home Port (T/S State of Maine)":








"Home Port (T/S State of Maine)" 12x24 oil
Available - $750

One secret to framing plein air work during an event is retouch varnish.   Even in a day or two,  paint will start to dry, and colors will become less saturated.  I bring a can of retouch with me, and I give each painting a quick spray before popping them into the frame.

After the Show

I was pretty pleased with my line-up of five 9x12s and one 12x24.  Paintings had to be dropped off between 2:30 and 4:30 at the Academy student center, and it was "first come, first served" for space.   I got there early, but there were already painters in line.  As we waited, some of us joked about fans camping out overnight for tickets for a major concert.

After setting up my "store," I took a walk.  Judging was at 4:30, and we were wanted back at 5:30 for the awards, so there wasn't much else to do.  It was a beautiful evening - I would have loved to have had one more painting session - so I took photographs for future reference.  Castine has some very lovely architecture.

One of my paintings, "Severe Weather" (at the top of the blog), won an Honorable Mention.  The best part of the event, though, was that I got to paint in some really great locations and to make some new painting friends.  Thanks to everyone - my lodging hosts, the festival committee, sponsors and all the volunteers - for putting on a great festival!

Below are the rest of the paintings that were in the show, plus one that was not.  Keep in mind, that the paintings always look better in person than they do on the Internet.  (I am making that a bumper sticker.)  Now, it's off to Miramichi, New Brunswick, to teach a plein air painting workshop, followed immediately by another in St Andrews.

"Eaton's Boatyard" 9x12 oil
Available - $500

"Early Morning on the Wharf" 9x12 oil SOLD

"Sunny Side of the Street" 9x12 oil
Available - $500

"Flag with a View" 9x12 oil
Available - $500
"Clouds Over the Cove" 9x12 oil (not in the show)
Available - $500

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Castine Plein Air Festival - Day 2

This morning's sunrise at the waterfront.  Looks to be a hot one!

After the first day's rocky start, all of the painters vowed to get up early to make for lost time. Friday was predicted to be sunny and mild - perfect plein air painting weather.

At 5:30 a.m., I drove down to the waterfront, where free wi-fi is available, to check e-mail and post my blog. (The Chromebook and I are gradually arriving at an understanding of one another, but I am still mystified by the inconsistency of where images end up in the much-despised  "Cloud.") Afterward, I took my coffee for a walk. I'd brewed a second cup to help me find my first painting spot. I had a big day ahead, as I planned to do four paintings. In these events, you make hay while the sun shines and then pick your best for the show. You can't say you'll just paint three great paintings - you'll never be that skilled nor lucky to paint all winners.

Although the waterfront is interesting with the training vessel, State of Maine, and all the pleasure craft, I really wanted something a little more along the lines of Emile Gruppe. Eaton's Boatyard, just behind Dennett's Wharf, was perfect. It has seaweeed-encrusted pilings, weathered clapboard, out-of-plumb angles and, yes, all the bric-a-brac that you'd expect in a boatyard. The tide was out and everything was backlit, which made for a perfect early morning moment.

While I painted, the owner of Eaton's came out briefly to let me know three other people had already painted his boatyard and wharf. He also let me know that the building was 202 years old. That sounded a bit of a fish tale, but what did I know? Later, an employee came out and wondered why I hadn't put any of the cars in my painting. I often find myself leaving out cars when I'm doing period pieces - they ruin the mood.

After finishing, I considered moving to another location, but the idea of picking up and moving for each painting seemed daunting and inefficient. So, I turned 45 degrees to the left and painted more of the boatyard. Some boats actually made it into this painting.

When I completed the second painting, I was pretty beat, but it was only 9:30. I wanted to sit for awhile. I went back to my car and called home to talk to Trina. Then I walked up the street for another coffee and poked around a little. I didn't really want to paint another waterfront scene. Buildings seemed to be next on my punchlist. But first, I decided to drive some of the smaller crossroads to see if anything looked interesting. Then I went home for an early lunch to refuel.

I ended up at the intersection of Court Street and Dresser Lane. Dresser has some lovely old homes on it and a curve that takes you down to the water. I was particularly taken by one Queen Anne home with a pair of turrets and bay windows. The light was nice in the early afternoon, too, so I set up at the intersection - somewhat out of traffic - to paint. The Maine Maritime Academy was on the other side of the street. As luck would have it, Friday afternoon seemed to be the time when the Academy's lawns needed to be mowed, so there was a good deal of racket and exhaust as I worked. These things just happen. I could write a book.

Three paintings down, and it was 2 pm. I had to be at a "Meet the Artists" reception at 5, so I didn't have much time for Number Four. I wanted something easy. I'd painted boats and buildings, all of which take a lot out of me. A pure landscape sounded like the perfect prescription. But it took me awhile to find it. I'd painted Wadsworth Cove last year and wanted something different, but after driving around for 30 minutes, I ended up at the Cove anyway. It was meant to be, though - the sky was beautiful with cumulus clouds building up. The last painting of the day didn't take long at all.

Home for a quick shower and a snack, and I also pulled out my seven paintings and selected five for the show. I also started the paperwork. There's more to a painting festival than just painting! Then it was off to the Castine Inn to meet the other artists, the volunteers, sponsors and festival committee members. The reception was on the shaded porch with a view of the garden.

Afterward, I drove around a little more. I have in mind to paint a 12x24 tomorrow, and I want something special for it. I'm not sure I've found it yet. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Castine Plein Air Festival - Day 1

No, I'm not painting "edgier" for this event - this is the view from my car window.


After teaching a plein air painting workshop on Wednesday, I dashed home, wolfed down lunch, threw my art gear in the car, and pointed the car toward Castine, Maine, for the Second Annual Castine P\lein Air Festival. I participated in the festival last year, but it was only a one-day event; this year, the organizers decided to expand the event to three days, so I was eager to get in some good painting time.

Castine could be the little town that time forgot. Could be, that is, except for the Maine Maritime Academy. Dominating the waterfront is the State of Maine, the Academy's training vessel. The MMA also occupies several buildings in the core of town, creating an anchor for the town's ongoing prosperity. Although school is now out for the summer, I am one of over 40 artists who have descended upon this working waterfront town like a flock of seagulls. We will be everywhere this week, perched on the docks, in front of historic homes, and at oceanside vistas. You can't miss us. Just look for the easels, the opened tailgates and the occasional umbrella.

I've been given lodging in a large house with six other artists and a couple of spouses. The owners have graciously vacated to their guest house next door, leaving us in charge of a truly wonderful "summer cottage." Other artists are from Maine, New York and Pennsylvania. One of the spouses has volunteered to cook dinners for us. Life doesn't get any better.

The evening of my arrival was gorgeous, but hot and muggy. The forecast called for a cold front to blow through with possibly damaging hail and wind. But after dinner and a listen to the big band concert at the waterfront, there was still little sign of a storm. It wasn't long, though, before the clouds rushed in, and I was thinking of Dorothy in Kansas. But the storm arrived like a lamb - just steady rain in the night without any fuss.

Morning for me came at 4:30. Too early to paint, but I went over the maps. The rain had stopped, and the weather seemed promising. But it wasn't to be - by 7:30, our check-in time for getting our canvases stamped, it was pouring rain. I picked up my goodie bag, got my ten 9x12 panels stamped, and then drove down to the waterfront to check the radar. By 8 or so, the rain petered out, the sky lightened, and things were good enough to set up.

But about half into the painting, the clouds broke again, and the rain was torrential. I'd positioned myself beneath a large deck umbrella, but to do so I was forced to straddle a picnic bench with my tripod. I moved in a little closer to keep the rain, which was cascading off the umbrella, off my back. By the time I finished, my shoes and pants were soaked.

I went back to the house to dry off. I suddenly discovered a strange purple stain on my pants, both front and back. That was odd, because the umbrella I had painted under was yellow. I hadn't used any purple paint. Where'd it come from? Then I remembered: My Gore-Tex raincoat had a purple lining. I'd never gotten the coat so wet before. Was it possible? Sure enough, when I tested the coat by rubbing the lining with a damp paper towel, the paper towel came away purple. How weird - using water-soluble dye in a raincoat?

It was only 10 a.m., but with the rain continuing, I decided to eat lunch. Back home, I met two other artists who'd had the same idea. I suppose the others were out with umbrellas and raincoats that didn't run in the rain.

Once I'd washed out the pants and dried them - we have a clothes dryer available to us - the rain seemed to have stopped. So, I headed out again and drove slowly down Perkins Street to look at houses and found a beautiful cottage with a view and an empty flagpole. I set up and began to paint, and sure enough, the rain began again. This second painting encountered a lot of intermittent drizzle. The lady who owned the house across the street from me came out to say hello, and since it was her mother who owned the house I was painting, she offered to raise the flag. "Don't you think it'd look better with a flag?" she asked. Sure, I said, and it did improve things a bit.

After that painting, the sun actually began to break out. I took a break myself and treated myself to an ice cream at the docks. I stopped in Lucky Hill Gallery to visit my painting friends Dan Graziano and Kristin Blanck. Re-energized by the walk and ice cream, I decided it was time to set up again.

This time, I set up right on Main Street, aiming to paint a historic building. And it didn't rain.

I'll post more photos later, but I made the mistake of taking a Chromebook with me on this trip rather than a regular laptop. Working in the "Cloud" isn't all it's made out to be. And the contortions one has to go through to get images from the camera to the Cloud to my blog - well, I still haven't figured it out completely. (And I'm about as computer-literate as they come; computer technology was my living for many years.) I might rant about that in a future blog post.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kickstarter Update: Hanging of the Fifty


Another milestone was reached today, and that was the hanging of the fifty paintings. If you've been following my blog or Kickstarter updates, this is for my "Fifty Paintings for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park" project.

It's always a good feeling when you get the exhibit hung. Even though this was a relatively easy one - standard sizes, all square - still, it was fifty paintings! Actually, there are fifty-two, including one extra 6x6 plus my 12x24 showpiece, "Mr Roosevelt's Cottage."


The paintings look really good on the wall, and I am so happy they do. If you'd like to see the exhibit, it's at The Fireside, the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park's new restaurant. Exhibit hours are the same as the restaurant's open hours, and the exhibit will be up until August 16. Here's a link to the restaurant's Facebook page so you can get hours and directions: https://www.facebook.com/FDRFireside

Tomorrow, I'll be giving a free plein air painting demonstration at the restaurant's front lawn from 2-3 Atlantic Time. I hope you'll join me for that and also stop in for lunch and see the show.

After that, the project takes a rest until the paintings come down August 16. Then we begin the awesome task of shipping the paintings. I'll have more details on that later.

For those of you who supported me in this celebration of the Park's anniversary, thank you! There are still a very few paintings available, and you can see them at http://www.michaelchesleyjohnson.com/html/50450.html.

PS Next week I'm off to Castine, Maine, for the second annual Castine Plein Air Festival! Stay tuned!




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Consistency and Style - Should I Worry?

Not too long ago, a visitor came to my studio gallery, looked at the walls a moment, and then said, "How many artists do you represent?"  Just me, I replied, but I have twelve different personalities.

If you look at my work, you'll see a variety of painting approaches.  I may paint on panel or canvas; I may tone the surface or not; I may use a brush or a painting knife; I may work in a tonalist manner or with impressionistic colors; I may paint with oil or pastel.  For me, these different approaches result in different styles of painting - different "personalities," if you will.  It's never a random choice but is always dictated by the needs of the moment.

As Walt Whitman wrote, "I am large, I contain multitudes."

Let's stop a moment and ask, What is style?  Style results from a combination of tools and materials, a method of painting, the painter's response to the world and, sometimes, the demands of the marketplace.  Beginning painters always seem to worry about developing a "style."  We more-experienced painters always advise them to not worry and just paint.  A style will develop of its own accord.  It will also change over time as you age and grow from your experiences.  It may even coexist peacefully with other styles you may have developed.  (My styles form one big, happy family.)

Can you force a style?  A pair of shoes walked in for fifty miles will fit better than a pair right out of the box.  You can try breaking in new shoes in other ways, but they just won't feel as comfortable.  And with painting, forcing a style isn't honest, and people can tell when a style has been invented for the sake of novelty and sales.  Patrons like novelty, but they prefer honesty.

You will know you have developed a style when painting becomes as easy as walking.

Now, let's get back to consistency of style.  Is it bad to have more than one style?

I don't think so.  I do think, however, that it's important to be consistent in style when you have an exhibit or are sending work to a gallery.  This doesn't mean you have to paint the same way, every time.  Instead, out of your body of work, you can select those paintings that share a common style.  Or, you can work toward an exhibit or gallery show by painting for it purposely in a single style.

But if it's your own studio gallery, it doesn't matter.  Variety is good for the visitor.

When I started writing this blog post, I thought this would be a simple, short post.  But the more I thought and the more I wrote (and deleted, and re-wrote), I realized that "style" is a complicated concept.  I have more to think about.  I am curious to hear your thoughts on consistency and style.


Six Styles, One Painter
"Friar's Head, Snow" 6x6 oil, studio - SOLD

"Panmure Island Light" 12x24 oil, plein air

"Acadian Prince" 16x20 oil, studio

"Duck Pond Fog" 4x12, watercolor, plein air - SOLD

"Pickling Shed" 9x12 oil, plein air

"Pemaquid Rocks" 9x12, pastel, plein air - SOLD

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Comparison: Original, Photoprint, POD Picture Book

One of the more frustrating tasks for today's artist is image adjustment.  I'm not talking about taking your brush and niggling at some little shape on the canvas that's been bothering you for a week.  I'm talking about digital stuff - sitting at your computer, playing with your screen settings, and holding your breath while navigating the heavily-mined waters of the Photoshop ocean.

I've written about this before, but more specifically, in relation to how images look different from one computer screen to the next.  Currently, I am in the middle of adjusting images for two print products related to my "Fifty Paintings for the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park's Fiftieth Anniversary" project.  Besides creating 50 paintings, I am working on a set of notecards and a book that will contain all the images.

Using Photoshop, I adjusted my digital scans of the paintings so they looked good when printed out on my Canon MP980 printer.   When printed out on Canon Glossy Photo Paper II, the colors and values were true.  These are the files I'm using for the notecards.  I used these same files when creating my book via CreateSpace, a print-on-demand (or POD) printhouse.  I created a PDF file first, and again, when printed out, the images in the PDF looked pretty close to the original paintings.  But when I received the book itself, I saw that the colors were off a bit.  Here's a photo of all three together.


The photo doesn't show the relationships as clearly as you would see them in person, but the notecard is very, very close to the original, which is on the right.  The book version (left) has higher contrast, deeper darks, and more red.  Overall, I'm happy with the book, but wouldn't it be nice if CreateSpace could get a little closer to the truth?

All that said, the book will give folks a good idea of the 50 paintings.  The person who made the paintings is always more fussy and particular than anyone else. I think you'll be pleased with it.

Back when I was working with my late mentor, Ann Templeton, on her book, The Art of Ann Templeton: A Step Beyond, we went through a printing issue.  The book was being printed very expensively in Italy by a premium printhouse.  When the first proof came off the press and was sent to Ann in New Mexico via express courier, she was aghast.  She wasn't happy with the color at all.  This, even though the book was designed and laid out by very good design firm that also coordinated the printing.  So, although her busy schedule hardly allowed for it, she flew to Italy and oversaw the entire print run of 3,000 books.  But it just goes to show how difficult the whole process of reproduction can be.

The book is now available via Amazon.com, in both paperback and Kindle versions.  You can get it here.  For Kickstarter supporters who took the book option, when I send your signed copy of the book, I'll be including several notecards for you, as well.

By the way, I am experimenting today.  I borrowed my father-in-law's Acer Chromebook to see how this whole "Cloud" thing works.   I am writing my blog and adjusting the image for it entirely in the Cloud.  I don't like having to rely entirely on the Cloud, which is what the Chromebook is all about.  If you don't have a connection to the Internet, there's not much you can do.  But I wanted to take it to the Castine (Maine) Plein Air Festival in a couple of weeks rather than my heavier and more cumbersome laptop.  I'll let you know how it goes!


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Starting to Frame the Fifty





As I write, the late Hurricane Arthur, now a post-tropical storm, is stumbling up the Bay of Fundy toward Prince Edward Island.  He's still dropping plenty of rain, and our front yard is littered with leaves, branches and small trees.  While 170,000 other Maritimers sit without power, we somehow still have ours.  We are nervous, though, about one tall ash tree that stands in a precarious spot, whipping in the wind.

The Roosevelt-Campobello International Park just announced that it has closed due to high winds, falling limbs and trees and power outages.  I don't recall it ever having done this before. It may be only a matter of time before we lose ours.

It's a good day to get some framing done.  So long as my rechargeable screwdriver doesn't run out of power, I can keep going.  Today I began framing the small paintings, and they are looking good.  (The yard outside my studio window is a different story!)

The original Kickstarter supporters have all finished selecting their pieces, so I am now opening up to others.   I am offering the remaining paintings on a first-come, first-served basis.

Price of each painting is $100, which includes frame and shipping.  I will take a personal check, or we can arrange a Paypal payment if you prefer.  Please contact me with your choice as described below, and I will hold the painting for you until I receive payment.  You may want to give me a second choice, just in case your first one gets taken.

I will ship your painting after the exhibition at the Park ends, which would be after August 16.

To see the paintings, please go to my web page:  http://www.michaelchesleyjohnson.com/html/50450.html  and let me know which one you'd like.  Use both the number and title.  Also, please give me your shipping address.  ALREADY PICKED ONES ARE MARKED "SOLD".

So, thank you again for your support!  It means a lot to me.

Michael

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Turn Down the Volume


I don't like being "sold to."  For me, that is the best way to kill a sale.   When I see headlines screaming "Top-Notch Painter Offers Sure-Fire Way to Create Stunning Paintings," my wetware spam filter kicks in.  I won't read the following text unless I have some idle time and am looking for a laugh.  (Yes, some of these pitches are that blatant.)  I don't care if you're selling paintings, instructional DVDs, art magazines or oven cleaner.  It's all the same.

Why don't I like being "sold to"?  Because more often than not, the promise is greater than reality.  When you look beyond the packaging, product A is not much different than product B.  It's the packaging that's being sold and not the product.  There is an inherent dishonesty implied in screaming headlines.

Sure, there are some products out there that are better than others, and these I do want to know about.  Perhaps I'm doing myself a disservice by not looking more carefully at all products.  It might just be the case that Top-Notch Oven Cleaner is actually far superior to any other.

But I don't have time to read all the advertisements.  If it screams, I just tune it out.  Experience has become instinct, and usually instinct is right.

As you know, I am a working artist and depend on selling stuff.  Paintings, workshops, books, DVDs - I'm no different than any other working artist.  But I don't want to be one of the screamers.  I want to sell, but I want to sell honestly.  I want to do it quietly and turn down the volume.

How do you sell quietly?  Paint.  Work the network.  Let people know you're out there.  Participate and engage.  Place a small ad now and then.  Have faith.

Hey, it works for me.  I've been making a living this way for 15 years, and I haven't started screaming yet.

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