Monday, July 21, 2014

Terminally cute: Toys with Doggy

About the addition of live animals to recent 'still life' paintings: the paintings seem more interesting to have a someone looking back at you.

I added some hens and a doggie for variety. I am afraid the paintings are looking terminally cute. Even the painting of the pile of shoes, and my new one of a pile of toys….too cute. I think just about any animal would have that effect though, especially if it's looking at the viewer. Maybe painting dead animals is trendy, but honestly I am trying to paint a live creature with a personality.

The juxtaposition of the animal against the other objects seems interesting and seems to create stories. The painting below seems sad because of the suitcase, I think.

On my website "Cramptonarts", I recently posted some temporary galleries to show more of my small landscape and recent still life paintings (while I search for a good Java slideshow). More artwork series to come. Please check them out!
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Below is the first shot I took when I had already obliterated the handle of the suitcase as it was in the wrong place. Painted the red items, first layer. (A chair in the foreground):

2nd shot below: Handle still seems to be in the wrong place. A pass to add blue as well as a little of everything else.

Third shot below: Fattened up the dog. Another background layer or two. Painting highlights and color on all elements. Ladybird was helping on left corner.

4th Shot below: Another layer of background and foreground and more local color. 

Here's the final below (left and right cropped slightly): I tried to paint the stripes at bottom once but ended up painting them about 3 or 4 times. Repainted foreground a couple of times. Lightened background. Futzed with dog's shadow on briefcase. Repainted keyboard several times. Also wheels, green thing, car, drum, well everything really. 

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Musings on my art influences

One work from my first series of advertising paintings

I can often tell when somebody went to art school by the kind of work they do.

One of the best compliments I ever received was that a KTEH TV art auction where the auctioneer trying to sell my painting (“House across the street on 17th St.”) said that he didn't know anything about this artist but it didn't look like the artist had been to art school, but if she had, she "didn't let it affect her too much" […something like that.]

When I was very young my older sister, Jeanne, taught me how to paint horses draw horses. I made the usual childhood art such as tulips in tempera or horses in watercolor that were entered in an art show at the yacht club. At the opening, I remember being too shy to stand next to my pieces but looking at them out of the corner of my eye. I still find openings extremely painful.

When I was six, my mother gave me her oil painting set. She had made precisely one painting with it. She set me up with her oil set, easel and panel in the in the basement laundry room, and I was instructed that the next time I felt like getting up really early on a Saturday, I was to go down to the laundry room and paint. I did make several paintings. Subject matter was a picture of a girl in a Jackie Gleason movie, a very sad movie, and pictures of my friends from memory. And horses. I made about one or two a year.

Our favorite books were the Eloise books. Sometimes Jeanne would badger mom to get her to buy a Mad magazine. We would devour it. We loved the movie satires drawn by Mort Drucker. Best friend Mary gave me a subscription to Mad in the 1990s and I was surprised to see that he was still drawing for them. Such a master of pen and ink!

When I was, maybe, eight, Jeanne gave me a book by Charles Adams, the cartoonist. It was a bit mature for me, but I loved the ink wash drawings and the weird family. The next year she gave me another one. I still love those little books.

My entire life we received the New Yorker magazine weekly and I studied the cartoons. We also had art books in the house, which included New Yorker cartoon collections, Peter Arno, Masterpieces of the Louvre, the Prado and some graphic wartime photography books that my deceased father had collected. I was lucky to grow up in a house like that.

At some point, best friend Mary and I had the Little Artist Club in the playhouse. I was the president and she was the vice president. We had an art opening in Mary's basement to which our families came. I also remember writing a play with another girlfriend and a story about a horse called "Sparky".

The summer I was about to turn 9, we drove across the country to go to Nevada where my mother got a divorce from her second husband. It was an eye-opening experience to see the country; to see Vegas, San Francisco, LA and other places. Route 66, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands, Grand Canyon, Caves. I collected the little soaps from every motel we stayed at because the graphics were so cool. We got back to school before Halloween.

The summer that I was 11/12, my mother decided it was time to get married again and this time she wanted a rich husband. Her second husband married her for her money (which was left over from my father’s estate). My sister was 15, almost 16. My mother wanted to go on the grand tour just like the Hollywood movies, for my sister’s “coming out”, and to get us more cultured. So we went to Europe. To drive to Nevada, we used an AAA travel agent who made us trip tiks, little maps to follow, and I think they booked this trip also.

We stayed at really expensive hotels and took the Queen Elizabeth cruise home. We stayed at several Ritz hotels: the Ritz in Paris on Place Vendome, the Ritz in Madrid where we saw Delores Del Rio in the elevator, and maybe in Rome. Sometimes we ate in these hotels and the waiter would stand next to your table watching for your every need, such as a dropped escargot fork or to refill your water glass. Sometimes there were two waiters per table. Jeanne was learning about wine and would order wine for her and Mom. Jeanne always had a gourmet sense of taste. I remember eating mussels all over Europe. In Vienna, we did not stay at the expensive Saacher but we stayed at another slightly less expensive hotel, possibly a Ritz. When we were waiting to check in, I dropped something on the marble floor and I had like three young bellboys about my age rush over to pick it up for me. In the Netherlands, we got in so late we missed dinner and ordered room service. We ordered three chocolate soufflés thinking they were little desserts but they were each large small pizza sized soufflés. Mom let us eat as much as we could. It probably cost a fortune and it tasted sublime. In London we had reservations at Claridges, but by that point my mother realized she couldn't afford it, and we stayed at a cheap hotel. I think she spent a fortune on that trip.

But what was great about staying at the fancy hotels was the art they had on their walls. I remember in Paris, they had a lot of still lives made with palette knife. Thick oil paint flowers. Also pictures made of jewels or glass. In the hotel in Nice, we stayed at the Négresco, the entire room was covered with fabric. The ceiling was pink stretched fabric gathered in the center. It was so luscious. And in the halls they had marble busts down the hall and the elevators. I remember going to each floor to study the busts in the hotel while I was waiting for mom to get ready. That was my favorite hotel.

And we hit almost every museum in Europe, as well as a lot of other attractions such as French Chateaus, the coliseum, a biennale in Vienna or Venice (?), the beach in Rome, flamenco dancers in Barcelona, a bullfight, Shakespeare’s cottage, etc.

It was a mind-blowing trip. Seeing the Louvre, Rembrandt, Ingres, Vermeer. I can still remember seeing many great paintings for the first time. I remember running through the Prado because we didn't allow enough time. Trying to find the Goya's, my mother's favorites.

In the museums we would kind of go around the room at our own speed, without getting lost from each other. But I would linger in front of paintings with really handsome men and think about having them as my boyfriend. My sister was interested in a lot of grotesque things like Bruegel or the insects on the Flemish still lifes.

Of course, I remember seeing the statue of David. And being fascinated by his hand. I walked going around and around trying to get a peek at his other parts that growing up in a family of three women I didn't really understand. I didn't understand the whole male apparatus. Florence, Venice, Amsterdam, Austria, Germany.

We went to Denmark to replace some of my mother's China or silver. I guess it was an excuse. But I remember many hours while she was looking over silver patterns wandering around the design stores looking at the Danish modern furniture, picking out the silverware that I would want when I got married – the most futuristic one they had.

And we came home on the QE2 where my mother did meet someone. He was probably married. I did a lot of jigsaw puzzles out on the deck on that trip. At one point Jeanne and Mom were both a little sea sick, even though we were a family of sailors, but the waves were so high. So incredibly high. Mom also met a guy who drove us around Austria. And in Rome men followed us all around the place, all around Italy they followed her…she was very blond and attractive. But she didn't find her rich husband.

Many years later an old friend's wife died and George took to driving past our house hoping to see Mom. One day he saw her in the front yard raking leaves. And stopped to chat. They started dating. She wore a silver bikini on George's boat. And that's how she found her third husband. They married when I was about 13 or 14. George was a nice guy. I didn’t entirely respect him because she bossed him around pretty bad, later made him sell his boat. But they played golf together and were pretty happy. He somehow made her afraid to drive (enough though she drove us out West and back.)

When I was in high school, the women's movement started. Coming from a family with such a strong woman, it had a big impact on me. I remember a family holiday party where I was struck with the fact that I didn’t want to grow up to be a woman because women were silly and had no power in the world.

I decided I would be independent. Women artists at the time talked about using their initials so no one would know they were a woman and thereby maybe be able to have a career as an artist. I never wanted to be accused of painting like a woman.

When I went to college I didn't know what I was going to do since Mom thought studying art was a career (although she was open to architecture and sculpture). I studied psychology, which I decided was lacking in any real knowledge. Anthropology, religion, philosophy, philosophy of religion: I was looking for answers. I wanted to know the meaning of life. None of these sciences seem to know what I needed.

When I was at college (SUNY at New Paltz), they had their first “Feminist Art Show”. I went with a friend and was blown away.
I said, out loud, “I wish I could be an artist.”
An older woman, a photographer, overheard me and said “Well, then, why don’t you be an artist?”
I said, “My mother doesn’t want me to.”
And she replied, “It’s your life.”
That statement reverberated throughout my body. I never realized it was my life and I could do what I wanted.

So then I decided I was going to do art. I saw an art show of enameled jewelry and realized I could sell that kind of art. I made a good portfolio and met with the dean of the well-respected art department there. He told me that they didn’t like to let many women into the department, as they just leave and get married. I sat there promising this a-hole that I would never get married. I was admitted to the program but then I dropped out of school. I know I wasn’t wanted there.

I wanted to go work on a subsistence farm as this was the era of back-to-the-land for the hippies. Mom said “No way”. I asked her if there was anything I could do that would ever make her happy and she said “Finish College.”  So, I decided to go to the University of Colorado since they had mountains and it was really far away, and study art.

I took a lot of art history classes as a way to fill up on credits since studio art classes take up a lot of hours but don't have a lot of credits. In art history classes, I encountered many of the works of art that I had already seen and I think that's a great way to experience art. My first experience of the artwork was from the original not the copy. I already knew these works of art. They were my friends. I had had an experience with them.

Everyone at college was making different sorts of art. Action painting was big, abstracts were big, figure painting or realism was not. But I just wanted to make important paintings and paint like Ingres or Rembrandt, but in a modern way.

I took my jewelry class – but I wasn’t that good with details – soldering is not easy. I took photography (everything inside out and upside down in photography), sculpture (got my lowest grade ever for making a feminist sculpture which I worked really hard on, and an F for “Wife” that I could not get out of it’s plaster cast), and lots of drawing and paintings classes. I spent hours in the art library writing papers for art history classes. I talked my way into a sold-out geology class by saying that geology is anatomy for landscape painters. 

Based on my experience, I think it takes artists a long time to figure out that they want to be artists. Since I did a lot of partying in high school and in at New Paltz, I was serious about my studies in Colorado. I didn’t have any friends in the beginning anyhow. I ran a low fever for a year and a half. I think the art program had a physiological effect on my body.

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