These two are nearly ready to send off. I'm feeling more focused and have a better sense of the direction of my work than I have in a while. Which is nice.
I'm very pleased to announce the addition of Weiler House Fine Art Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas, as an exhibitor and representative.
Located within the historic Handley area of Fort Worth, Weiler House Fine Art Gallery is home to an eclectic collection of fine art. Built in 1906 for William Weiler, the first station master and prominent citizen in the town of Handley, the Weiler House showcases some of the finest original art in Fort Worth.
I've always liked the way my art "fits" in older historic buildings, and though it's not a huge space, I've been really impressed with the quality of artists they represent.
And, talk about getting off on the right foot, they sold a piece for me right away; this study of a deer skull I did a few months ago.
The owner has been very helpful and easy to communicate with, which is great. I'm very excited to have them represent my work and look forward to painting a lot in the months ahead.
Thanks to Bill Ryan and everyone at Weiler House!
Experience, it is said, is the best teacher. But experience is the worst way to have to learn anything, because, whatever it is, you learned it too late to avoid the Learning Experience.
So, this is my record of a learning experience. I'm far enough away from the embarrassment, panic and dread to be able to talk about it, now, and even laugh (a little).
The story starts with a call from a friend and patron. Yowzers! He wants to commission a large painting. A REALLY large painting. That's okay, because I have done very large paintings a number of times before and am very familiar with stretching - and re-stretching - my own canvases and that sort of thing. Easy peasy.
Okay, there may be one or two logistical problems to work out over shipping it to the East Coast, but I can figure that out later.
So, I begin! I stretch a big canvas;
The canvas, about 7 feet wide
I do some color studies;
Color Study for Pansies
So, I'm happy and, as the paint dries, I start to study the different ways I can ship the piece. Not having a lot of experience shipping pieces this large, I'm a bit taken back at what it would cost to have it done by an art shipping company. Yoiks! So, I go to a local place that has shipped artwork for me a number of times (with good results). I mean, their ads say they can ship anything. They've always been helpful and professional. So, I go in, not realizing they are under new management.
I explain my situation, and they give me a ballpark estimate that sounds reasonable enough. So, after some back-and-forth on specifics, I bring the painting in. They will pack it for me in a large, reinforced carton. I figure they are the professionals, so I'm glad to have that in good hands. I come back a day or two later, and there it is, all boxed up. So, great! It's ready to go. It can't go UPS or FedEx, because it's over their size limit, but they have a private shipper who will take it on one of their regular routes to the East Coast.
Hmmm. Okay. As long as they will be sure to make arrangements to meet my client at their address, that will work. Anyway, it's insured. So, off it goes. I'm excited and relieved. Can't wait to hear what the patron thinks of it!
So, I know it won't be there in two or three days. It's kind of a special handling situation, but it should arrive in about a week from the day it shipped. I wait for the call. After about 9 days, my patron calls me. No painting. I call the local shipper. The shipper calls the trucking company. I don't hear back for a couple of days. I call again. Shipper says he hasn't heard anything yet, but he'll call again. I'm getting irritated and concerned.
Another day or two goes by. I call the shipper again. He sounds a little freaked out, like he doesn't know what to tell me. He says he's going to call the trucking company and rake them over the coals until he finds out about the painting. He calls me back that afternoon. The trucking company doesn't know where the painting is. They have lost it. My local shipper is alternately outraged and profusely apologetic, swearing a blue streak. He's going to get to the bottom of this and find out what the hell's going on!!
I make the most bizzarely difficult phone call of my life to my client. He calls the local shipper at some point, as well.
Then, finally some news. They have located the painting and it should arrive with the client in a day or two. Whew. Well, that's good. But I will never make the mistake of working with an unknown private trucking company, again. I wait nervously for the painting to be delivered.
Then, my patron calls, incensed. The shipper has seriously damaged the painting. He refuses shipment.
When will this nightmare END?!
He sends me some photos. It doesn't look good. I can see the carton is damaged, and part of the painting, too. But it's hard to get a sense of how bad it is. The painting starts it's somber trip back to my studio. I don't want to live.
It eventually arrives back at the local shipper, but takes long enough that I begin to wonder if they've lost it again. I go down to take a look. It's awful. Nauseating. The painting has been mangled. The carton appears to have been crushed by a fork lift, or something. At least there's the insurance.
Now, here's my second mistake (my first was going with a no-name shipper). I assumed that insurance would cover the retail value of the painting, like it would with UPS or FedEx. But this trucking company doesn't operate the same way. Turns out their real specialty - their meat and potatoes - is shipping heavy equipment (like the heavy equipment that crushed my painting?). They get dodgy about the insurance. How can they know what the painting is really worth? Why, I could say it was worth anything. A million dollars! I send copies of the payment transactions between me and my patron. Then I learn that the fine print of the shipping contract says they cover only a set fraction of actual value on shipped packages. No wonder the insurance was so reasonable.
While all this is being endlessly hashed out, I start to assess the painting;
A tear in the canvas
Linen for the patch
Now, I collect the meager insurance money and make plans to drive the artwork out to my friend and patron in Washington DC. After what I've been through, I can't imagine letting the painting out of my sight again until it sits in his living room. I don't mind driving, enjoy it, in fact, and I'll truly enjoy meeting my him in person, too. He and his lovely wife graciously lend me the use of one of their weekend rental suites in a wonderful old refurbished building in the heart of the nation's capital. Or capitol (which is it, anyway?).
I arrive, and my friend, patron - and now host - is fantastic. They kindly lavish praise on the painting. He shows me around
the neighborhood, to the bookstore, a tobacconist and a local specialty
brew store. It's a great privilege, and great fun to meet him and his
wife... if only I weren't exhausted, a shell of my normal self. I'm
running on fumes and adrenaline.
I drive out from Northwest Arkansas to Washington D.C. - and back - in four days. Along the way I see some indescribably beautiful landscapes. The sun rising through dense, roiling mist in the Smokey Mountains. Things like that. But not the way I had ever hoped to see them.
So, there's my nightmare tale. A cautionary tale for artists. Mea Culpa.
Next time, I will build a wood crate myself, pack my own artwork, have it shipped by reputable professionals, and charge accordingly. But at those rates, I really could drive it myself and make a mini-vacation of it. That's tempting.
Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.
- G. K. Chesterton
Since September 4th of this year, I've had the privilege of being the art instructor for the stupendously amazing 9th-12th grade students of the Chesterton Academy, in Edina, Minnesota (the West Minneapolis area).
This delightful private Catholic high school was started as a grass-roots movement of parents. The school opened its doors in the fall of 2008 with just ten students; the following year it had twenty. In its third year, it had forty-two students. This year, over eighty students are enrolled, and the school is drawing national and even international attention. Chesterton Academy was just named one of the Top 50 Catholic High Schools in the United States by the Cardinal Newman Society.
Chesterton Academy "strives to offer a classical curriculum, one that draws on the great Western traditions of faith and reason wielded in concert" as part of "a meaningful education in an authentically Catholic environment". This includes a classical approach to art, where every student - in all four years - learns traditional methods of painting and drawing, art appreciation and art history from the cave art of Lascaux, to Egypt, Greece and Rome on up to the present day.
Our classical approach to studio art involves drawing and painting from real life, using a variety of objects and "casts" as visual references. As our program has grown, our need for casts and other art supplies has expanded as well.
A simple plaster sculpture cast.
One miraculous hallmark of the Chesterton Academy has been their continual ability to accomplish so much with so little. Their frugality is a virtue, because one fundamental goal of CA has been to make the classical education they offer as reasonably priced as possible, so as to keep it within reach of as many families as possible.
So there is a great opportunity, for those interested in encouraging young artists, to contribute in a substantial way that will be of immediate and direct help to these art students. Contributions of art supplies - like the plaster cast above, or drawing and painting materials - are tax deductible, and the Chesterton Academy (501c3) will provide a letter acknowledging your donation for that purpose.
But mostly, it's a great chance to be a part of this joyful and growing revolution in education.
Thank you!! Please e-mail me (link in left-hand column) or post a comment and I will be in touch with more information. Meanwhile, here are some useful links for your perusal (but we will be very grateful for any kind of assistance you can offer!).
or, you can very simply donate directly to the Chesterton Academy;
Some of you may be aware of this already, but many may not; in a few weeks, I'll be joining the faculty of the Chesterton Academy in Minneapolis as their teacher of art. Huzzahs all around!!
We have been (quietly) making preparations large and small for months and will be moving from the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas to semi-temporary digs in Andover, MN on August 1st. This will be just about at the middle point between the Chesterton Academy and my wife's new job (hurray!!), about a half-hour commute for both of us.
This is all tangentially related to my (still somewhat painful and awkward) withdrawal from the Catholic Blogosphere and what I know must seem my inexplicable abandonment of The League of Bearded Catholics project.
Oy. Please suffice to say that even as an active blogger, I was pretty guarded about my personal life, and some of my reasons for leaving TLBC and Old World Swine in mothballs (for now) are personal and would be difficult to articulate fully. It came down to weighing my various duties before God and having to make hard choices. I simply bit off more than I could chew all at once. Something had to go, at least for a time. I'm truly sorry to all those I may have confused and disappointed in that process.
After some years of fitful career struggles, God simply dropped the positon at the Chesterton Academy into my lap. Okay, maybe it wasn't as out-of-the-blue as all that, but it was rather sudden.
I had been working at making a transition from commercial art to fine art (painting), and after losing my last full-time job (a pretty decent gig), had made a semi-conscious decision not to commit myself deeply to graphic art so that I would be able to walk away more easily when I needed to. This meant taking on a high volume of simple local freelance jobs for pretty low pay, which kept me very busy and very stressed, seeing as how we were nearly always broke. I don't think I could have taken on another corporate position and kept my sanity (such as it is). One has to pretend to care deeply about too many trivial things, and I'm just approaching that age where I can't pretend to care.
You just never know what may happen at a Chesterton conference! At the 2011 Chesterton Conference in St. Louis, I brought some prints of my artwork to hawk between presentations. One thing, as they say, led to another, and next thing I knew, I was sitting at Dale Ahlquist's kitchen table, talking about art and Chesterton and life and stuff through a lovely haze of pipe smoke. Once you see Chesterton's walking stick in person, there's no turning back.
Oddly, events have turned out so that I will have to miss the 2012 Chesterton Conference in Reno in a couple of weeks. We'll be unpacking right then.
We covet your prayers. See you around Minneapolis!
I was very happy to be included as an exhibitor in the 2012 ArtsFest in downtown Bentonville, AR. I was even happier to be recognized for the second year in a row with the Best of 2-D award. The quality of the exhibitors was really impressive, so I was doubly grateful. One drawback of these art festivals is that I don't get around to see the other artists' booths as much as I'd like.
The images above are professional scans of a few of the pieces I exhibited in the festival. By Scott Imaging. They do a great job.
I thought I'd post some snapshots of the painting process for my most recent studio still life painting, Strawberries in China Bowl. I'll post a higher quality scan of the finished painting in a few days.
This is the initial value drawing, on a toned ground which I had applied earlier. This is mainly to nail down the shadows that anchor the image. I used a mixture of burnt sienna and cobalt blue for this stage, with alkyd medium, which improves flow and gives a nice translucence for mid-tones. It also speeds drying.
Here I've added some color to the background plane. This will be mostly covered with a translucent white later on, but I wanted the warm tone beneath. This is a mix of (I think) Naples Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Orange and Zinc White.
After the value drawing was dry, I began laying in local color, starting with heavily applied areas of saturated color and then lightly dry-brushing in the areas that transition into full shadow. Sorry for the awful color. This is an iPhone snap.
I've roughed in the dish, but the edges will need quite a bit of refining and there are a number of important variations needed in the shadowed areas, where there is some terrific, subtle reflected light bouncing around.
And the finished product. The highlights and reflections on the strawberries came together pretty quickly. Truth be told, I sat down - just for a minute - to look at the unfinished painting this morning, just to get my brain stirring, and sure enough, I found a little something I thought should be tweaked right away. One thing led to another, and I finished it about 3:00 this afternoon, still in my pajamas. Welcome to my world.
This is the best color I have, at present, but these are all just snapshots. A scan is coming.