Archive for the ‘News’ Category

About FACE

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Last week I had the privilege of attending the inaugural Figurative Art Convention & Expo (#FACE17) in Miami.  We were a comparatively small group (350 attendees) but enjoyed a stellar faculty that provided a supportive and inspiring learning experience for all the participants.

Both the conferees and faculty share a deep interest in, and commitment toward, encouraging a resurgence of museum-quality representational artwork, not only in the United States but around the world.  We look forward to increasing the opportunities for training artists in classical methods.  Equally important is reintroducing the public to the inherent beauty of such fine art, and to raise the level of awareness and appreciation for the work and training that goes into it.

We also dream of bringing a high level of realism back and a positive outlook into the contemporary world to displace the negativity so often found in non-representative and “modern” art of the Twentieth Century.

IMG_7280---Daniel-Gerhartz-

Daniel Gerhartz demonstrates and discusses his approach to portraiture.

From the time I rose before 6 o’clock each morning until I collapsed into bed around 11 at night, the days were packed with information and opportunities to make personal, social, and business connections, all in an environment conducive to sharing ideas, encouragement, and enthusiasm with others who have a common passion for uncommon figurative realism.   As word gets out about the success of FACE17, and excitement mounts, next year’s FACE conference is projected to be even larger, with a higher attendance anticipated.

How exciting it was to hear of the rebirth of the atelier – teaching studios in which artists train their students in classical methodology, so they in turn can teach others.  This kind of training has largely been lost during the Twentieth Century, but appears to have made some inroads over the past decade toward a more widespread comeback.

John Coleman at his sculpting demonstration.

John Coleman demonstrates his sculpture techniques.

If you share the vision and desire to see high quality representative art take its rightful place again in museums, art galleries, and schools, there are a few simple ways that you can help.

If you are an artist interested in figurative work, consider attending the next Figurative Art Convention, again expected to be held in Miami, November 7-10, 2018.  Get involved.

Or, even if you are not an artist yourself, invest in an artist who shares that vision, who is reaching for that “unreachable star” of artistic mastery.  As demand for such art increases, galleries will take greater interest in representing those artists, museum curators will more seriously consider acquiring their work, and the movement will increase exponentially.

I’m not suggesting that it necessarily be my work that you acquire (though of course that would be appreciated).  But if you find a high-quality representational painting that moves you, whatever the size, whatever the price, whoever the artist, please give serious consideration to purchasing it for yourself.  The value is not only in your own investment in the painting.  Your investment in that artist will provide encouragement and perhaps financial backing needed to allow him or her to continue.  You will also have acquired a painting that will provide you ongoing pleasure and a continuing reminder of your role in the resurgence of classical art in the new millennium.  And how great is that?

Following Irma

Friday, September 15th, 2017

For those who have been concerned about my well-being during Hurricane Irma’s onslaught in Southwest Florida, I thought I’d post a notice here to let you know that we came through virtually unscathed.  My husband and I were in Wisconsin at the time, so we were well out of harm’s way.  Before leaving Florida, we had closed down our Fort Myers house sufficiently that we incurred only minor damage, most notably the loss of a tree in the front yard and the loss of electrical power for two days.

If you’re interested  in reading about how it has affected my work, you may want to sign up on my email list before my next month’s newsletter, “Around and About,” comes out on October 8.  The newsletter will also include a critique of the painting “Eye on the Horizon” (#170908), shown below.

"Eye on the Horizon" by Charlotte Mertz (#170908, oil on canvas)

“Eye on the Horizon” by Charlotte Mertz (#170908, oil on canvas)

We were extremely fortunate and very grateful to get off so lightly!  We certainly empathize with our neighbors and friends who have incurred much more damage and wish them a rapid recovery as we all begin the process of assessment and cleanup.

Because life has been so up in the air lately, I’m still open to feedback on my previous blog.  Don’t miss your chance to let your voice be heard!

I get the impression that many of you like to know what goes on behind the scenes, including what prompts me to select certain subjects and how I approach the work.  This includes the bumps in the road and lessons I may have learned from those “oops”es along the way.

In the coming months I will try to fulfill your requests, address your suggestions, and focus both the blog and the newsletter more on those topics you have indicated that you’re most interested in.  Please continue to send your feedback, either by email or by commenting directly on the posts.  It really does encourage me to continue writing and helps me to provide the information you’re looking for.  After all, the blog and newsletter are for you, so I want them both to address your interests.

Materials Evaluation Time!

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

As I take a brief vacation break to do something different, I’m considering a short-term shift from watercolors back to oils for a few weeks.  The changed requirements for and approaches to preplanning, brushwork, edges, color blending, and so on, may help by refreshing my perspective on watercolor when I return to it, and perhaps to help me return to the style-seeking mode I mapped out for myself in April.

"Limited Palette" (#170303w)

“Limited Palette” (#170303w)

An article comparing some of the top brands of oil paint, published on www.Wonderstreet.com* this past spring, reminded me to review my own oil paints and other materials to verify that they really suit my current needs.  Certainly there are always new colors to try and evaluate, but this kind of comparative article helps to narrow down the optimal choices of paint manufacturers.

In general, I’ve been very pleased with my choice of M.Graham’s walnut-oil based line because they can be used without solvents.  Even for cleanup, I use just walnut oil and Murphy’s Oil Soap, which means I don’t have to worry about the odor, health effects, or disposal of turps or other petroleum-based products.

I also occasionally use water-soluble oils (which the Wonderstreet article did not include).  But frankly, they don’t have the same smooth “feel” and are no easier to clean up with soap and water than the M.Graham paints.

But my needs and preferences aren’t the same as everyone else’s, so I appreciate it when comparative evaluations like the Wonderstreet article appear as a reference that allows artists to make informed selections based on their individual needs.  Here are some of the comparative references I’ve found most helpful, to date:

For oils:  http://wonderstreet.com/blog/how-to-choose-a-brand-of-oil-paint (Comparisons of major manufacturers’ oil paints, with pros and cons cited by working artists)

For acrylics:  http://wonderstreet.com/blog/choosing-the-acrylic-paint-thats-best-for-you (Comparisons of major manufacturers’ acrylic paints, with pros and cons cited by working artists)

For watercolor:  Hilary Page’s Guide to Watercolor Paints (an extremely comprehensive coverage of most manufacturers’ colors and the characteristics of individual pigments as of 1996, with a more limited free update printout as of 2009 available).  Unfortunately, the original book is no longer available except through resale.

Another watercolor resource is WonderStreet’s article on watercolor paints, http://wonderstreet.com/blog/which-brand-of-watercolour-should-you-choose, Though the article does not delve into specific pigments or individual paints colors as Page’s book does, the article provides a general overview of what to expect from each product line.  It is a helpful resource when seeking desirable characteristics from a specific manufacturer’s products.  The information, compiled from findings by WonderStreet’s readership of working artists, is up-to-date as of this spring.

*Note:  Wonderstreet is a UK-based platform on which such artists as illustrator Kerry Darlington can showcase their work.

New Season Classes

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

This month I’m looking ahead and preparing lesson plans for the classes I’ve committed to teach in the new year.

These “Snowbird Season” classes, taught at the Verandah Community in Fort Myers, FL, will include both a beginners’ 6-session series, beginning January 10, and a subsequent 6-class “continuing” series, beginning February 21. The second series will be for both students from the first sessions who wish to continue and for others who already have some background in watercolor who would like to pursue their interest further.

Milky Way Over the Bay (#160802w)

Milky Way Over the Bay (#160802w)

I always enjoy introducing new painters to the mysteries of watercolor painting. And I also find it gratifying to be able to encourage and guide more advanced artists to explore the possibilities that watercolor provides. Not only do I invariably make new friends, but the very nature of our classwork means that we have a common interest and creative drive. This means that we generate a special kind of excitement and motivation to advance beyond our current skill levels.

We all learn from one another’s efforts. Yes, I continue to learn, too, as we discuss strategies to produce the best possible work, analyze the cause of specific problems, and figure out how to overcome or at least minimize them and, preferably, avoid them altogether in future paintings.

Whether or not you are close enough to join one of my classes, I encourage the artist or art connoisseur in you to find or form an association with at least one other person with whom you can discuss your views and insights. It doesn’t matter if you use or appreciate the same medium. The fact that you mutually strive to visualize the world through artistic eyes with the goal of expressing or enhancing your vision of it will stimulate your continuing development and pleasure.

But most of all, whether you’re creating your own or appreciating others’ artwork, have fun, and share the joy!

I wish you a safe and satisfying holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.

Seeking “the Zone”

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

The wonderful contemporary artist Quang Ho opened my eyes recently to what he terms an artist’s three levels of seeing.  If I understand him correctly, the first is based on our beliefs of accepted characteristics of our subjects (“A face has eyes, nose, mouth, and ears; an apple is red”).  This is exemplified in, but not limited to, a child’s early drawings, in which, though proportionately skewed, with simplistically shaped features, the subject is still provided the key formulaic elements.  Although these “truths” are incomplete and therefore often inaccurate for depicting specific subjects, this level is identifiable by our fear of diverging from our understanding and belief of “what is.” Because of this, we paint the surface characteristics we have come to accept, without looking for a greater, more specific truth.

In the second level we see variations from our original assumptions.  We base our revised assumptions on informed observations, which are interpreted by our understanding of artistic “rules” and our perceptions of natural laws.  (“Atmospheric perspective dictates that colors become cooler and lighter as they recede.”)  These observations and perceptions may or may not be complete or accurate for all situations.  But they allow us to make certain judgments that may break away from the original mode.  We actively seek out differences and compare our observations against what we have been taught to expect.  Yet at this second level, even with thorough technical mastery of the medium, we often still rely on, and stubbornly cling to, our revised understanding of “what is.”

The third level transcends this to the point of our slipping “into the Zone,” being able to imagine the whole of a composition before its execution, visualizing possibilities beyond what our eyes perceive, and allowing an artistic concept or mood to transcend the subject.  At this level the artist is freed to either apply or ignore observational assumptions and perceptions of “what is” and experiences a fearless freedom to play, experiment, and vary from the literal.  This is where innovation lives, creativity thrives, and individual vision becomes apparent.

"Une Petite Fleur," copyright 2010 by Carol Mertz. Used by permission.

“Une Petite Fleur,”
copyright 2010 by Carol Mertz.
Used by permission.

Third-level seeing is what separates top-grade artists from the rest of the pack.  While often designed using characteristics and idioms of first level seeing, cartoon art, such as Une Petite Fleur (above) by Carol Mertz, often illustrates an artist’s inner vision by transcending the seeming simplicity of the drawn subjects to express a greater message. Simplification and use of the first-level idiom focuses on the message of the art and makes it easily understood by any reader/viewer.  In Une Petite Fleur, the simplicity of the line drawings, and the subtlety of differences between the weekly images, contribute greatly to the poignancy of the messages.

But I leave cartooning to my daughter.  Watercolor is the vehicle that moves me toward that third level of seeing.  Once in “the Zone” I don’t have to concentrate so hard on the mechanics.  Here I tend to lose track of time and conscious thought, and can let the freedom flow.  It isn’t an easy level to reach, requiring both considerable confidence and competence in the medium. And the changes come gradually.

I haven’t entirely or consistently achieved that third level of visualization in my representational painting.

Perhaps more than any other painting medium, well-executed watercolor is demanding and requires considerable pre-planning.  But this medium carries me along, begs me to play, and challenges me to find the answers to “how.”  Acknowledging the need to find “how” is humbling (perhaps because it suggests incomplete mastery), but it drives my continuing exploration and pursuit of understanding.  This realization reaffirms that it’s time for me to come back home to watercolor.

With increasing mastery will come increased confidence to step beyond the familiar to paint as only my mind can visualize.  Thorough mastery ensures greater freedom of expression, to reach for that ultimate level of seeing and of composing that inner visualization in an entirely different mode.  At this level, even representational work transcends a literal interpretation.  This is the level of artistic mastery I am striving for.

I hope you’ll stay with me as I pursue it through 2017.