Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jean-Léon Gérôme

Yesterday the Wiffee and I visited the Getty Center in Los Angeles to see the Jean-Léon Gérôme exhibition. He was a 19th century French painter known best for his romanticized images of the Middle East. (You can see many of his works at Jean-Léon Gérôme).

His paintings are stunning. On the one hand, they appear photographic, yet they're better than photos, plus he blurred edges of everything except the important subject. The images still look detailed, yet the subject pops out of the canvas with its sharp edges, brilliant contrast and color.

Above is one of Gérôme's paintings: Pollice Versa! (Thumbs Down!) (If you've ever seen the 2000 movie Gladiator with Russell Crowe, you've seen this artwork brought to life on screen in the opening moments of the film -- the director obviously knew about this piece!) Seeing the painting up close and personal, it's amazing how much detail Gérôme put into it, especially with the numbers of people in the stands of the Circus Maximus. It appeared to be the most popular work in the exhibit.

The description cards along side each work often mentioned comments made by the critics of Gérôme's time. Reading them made me realize how biased and subjective critics were then, as they are today. As an artist, I could see how hard Gérôme worked on his paintngs and how incredibly skilled he was in creating them. One of the bios on the walls mention he sketched eight hours a day, over and above painting and, later, sculpting. No wonder he was so good! I should take the 8h/d habit as advice for my own artistic development.

Seeing paintings of this caliber makes me realize how far I need to go as an artist, but it also demonstrates comments I've seen on artists' forums: artists who paint as Gérôme did would have a hard time surviving today. It takes a long time to work that way, and the painter would have to settle for low production while asking high prices -- a situation galleries don't care for. They want artists who can crank. This may account for all of the modernistic art we see so much of today. They can be made relatively quickly, and with the right kind of promotion, convincing and marketing, might even sell for lots of money.

In short: exhibitions like Gérôme inspire me and discourage me at the same time. Funny how life can be like that, huh?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thoughts of Days to Come

Here I am, on the computer, feeling just a little guilty because I'm not painting.

Just a LITTLE guilty. I figure I'm on vacation, and working on the computer is the only thing I'm doing right now.

I applied for unemployment a few weeks ago, and I heard this week I'll begin receiving benefits since I was, in a sense, laid-off from my part-time teaching position at the community college.

I'm done painting for the art shows that are coming up next month. A few pieces still need to be framed; however, I've got more paintings than frames these days, and I can't afford to buy more right now. In a few cases, I'll pull paintings from some frames and use those frames on other, newer work. Some artworks were done on edge-wrapped canvases; thus, they don't need frames. And one of the show organizers said I could put small paintings on panels (1/8" thick) into clear plastic envelopes and display them as though they were unframed prints.

So I should be OK. I've been working hard seven days a week for most of the days and almost all of the nights. I'm tired. I need down time.

I'll have to wait until next month to find out if the college will want me to teach again starting in January 2011. We don't have many job openings here in this mostly-rural desert town, so if I don't teach again, I'll have to try and find a way to sell art without depending on expensive shows. The Internet to the rescue?

Finally, I'll want to see if there truly is a market for the style and subject matter I prefer to paint. If not, I'll have to come up with something else -- or quit making art to sell. It would be art for personal enjoyment.

We'll see. Interesting times ahead.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Autumnal Woods

With two shows coming up, I was thinking about making a couple of paintings showing the desert under the full moon.

We-e-l-l-l ... feeling like I need a break from painting for a while, I decided not to burden myself with additional paintings to do right now. Besides, I can't afford to buy frames for the paintings I already have, let alone for any more new pieces.

So I reworked a painting that I actually started in 1999. I was never entirely happy with it then, so I set it aside, figuring I would work on it more...someday. "Someday" came in 2004, when I made some significant changes to the scene, including removing a small waterfall that appeared almost in the middle of the painting. But I STILL wasn't happy with it!

So it sat around in it's rather ornate gold frame, stashed away out of sight. It needed more work, and I was tired of looking at it and wondering what to do with it.

Fast forward to 2010. I finally worked on it some more, and although it isn't as well-done as it could have been (which would have involved painting it out and starting all over again!), I think I finally got it to a point where I'm essentially happy with the piece now!

The title is "The Autumnal Woods" and was inspired by a painting by 19th century artist Thomas Moran:

The detail shows a frog that appears right below my name in the copyright notice. This little guy is 1/4" (6mm) long on the painting!

It's not the desert, but not everyone wants desert paintings. Let's hope somebody will want a fall painting!