Tuesday, August 22, 2017

332: Keeping Your Studio Safe

THE best insurance is taking measures to keep ourselves safe and healthy. To comply with that belief I recently made several adjustments to my studio process.

One of the reasons for my increased vigilance was learning about a well-known artist who developed a serious toxicity issue from getting oil paints on his skin. Over time the absorption of paint on his hands built to a toxic level. I have since opted to use gloves while painting. I was fortunate to find two types I really like.

My favorite is this brand variation which has a textured surface that allows sweat to evaporate. This is especially critical when working outside. The gloves are robust and can withstand multiple uses, so are a great value. I don't necessarily like the blue color so when I'm making a video or where I might be photographed I prefer these black gloves. It took time to get used to working with gloves, but once I did I prefer them while painting. It provides health benefits of course, but it's also great not worrying about the mess and subsequent clean-up.

I built a log cabin in 1976 when I was 18, and in 1997 I accidentally burned it down. Thankfully no one was hurt, and financial loss was minimal. Yet the experience was traumatic. I can't imagine what others face when the outcome is more serious. Because of my experience, I keep a fire extinguisher and a fire-resistant trash can near my easel. Oil soaked rags are one of the primary causes of studio fires (read about cases of spontaneous combustion in studios herehere and here). The minor expense of a fire-proof trash can and an extinguisher will prevent greater cost and heartache later on. I highly advise these two additions to your studio.

Keeping a solvent free studio by using palette knives (read more about my switch to palette knives here) or using a low-evaporating solvent like Gamsol are other ways to keep your painting environment safe. Additionally be sure to keep your Gamsol in an air-tight container. Most artist containers for solvents will leak over time as the seal wears out so be sure to check the seal occasionally.

If you have additional ways to increase health and safety in the studio I hope you will leave a comment.

Brad Teare– August 2017

Above: State of the Arch, 24' x 24', available at Anthony's Fine Art.

Monday, August 14, 2017

331: The Cure for Bad Art

–THE poet Alexander Pope, describing the slippery slope of degraded expectation wrote, "vice is a monster of such frightening mien, that to be hated needs but to be seen. But seen too oft and familiar with her face, we first pity, then endure, then embrace."
Cottonwood Creek, 24" x 36"

The sentiment is as true today as it was in Pope's time. But there seem few who understand how enduring bad art, generally thought to be a virtue, can erode the foundations of civil society. Freedom is vital for the creation of art and no artist I know advocates censorship. But because of our voluntary restraint from censorship we have an increased obligation to shape our culture by supporting great art.

Mark Helprin is one of the greatest writers of our time. But because he is out of step with post-modern ideology he has been nearly ignored by the popular media. His career has suffered and he can't support himself solely from his novels. Because I think more books like his should be written, I just pre-ordered his latest book, Paris in the Present Tense. I could save money by waiting to buy a used copy, checking it out from the library, or buying the ebook. But by pre-ordering the more expensive hardback, I signal the market that I love his work and want more work of similar quality.

If we use our purchasing power to support great artists, we become patrons of the art we love. If we see the same movies others consume we have no right to think we are independent thinkers. If we read the same books others read we think the same thoughts others are thinking. If we consume the same entertainment the masses devour we deny ourselves exposure to the unique expressions of unique minds.

I challenge myself to seek out and support artists I deem worthy of support. By doing so, I curtail thoughtless expenditures on valueless fads.

Don't pity bad art. Don't endure bad art. And certainly do not embrace it.

Brad Teare August 2017

Above: Cottonwood Creek, 24" x 36", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

330: My favorite palette knives

–AS promised I finally put together a video outlining all of my favorite palette knives (see below). I'm using all palette knives now and am enjoying not cleaning brushes nor using solvents–which is especially nice in the field.

Here is a numbered, paragraph-by-paragraph description of each palette knife I mention in the video, plus links:

1. Blunt nose, small palette knife: This is my most favorite knife. It holds a lot of paint and you can maneuver into small spaces, pushing lots of paint into an area fast.

2. Long, pie-shaped palette knife: This is good to make flat lines, both with the end, dragging the color off the tip, and touching the broad side to the canvas with a light touch to create a line.

3. Ginko leaf-shaped palette knife: This knife will move a lot of paint yet give lots of various marks, both from the side and the tip. It is great for blending between patches of color as well as softening or removing excess texture.

4. Round palette knife: This will do a lot of what the Ginko leaf-shaped knife will do, and it has a bit more flexibility, which helps to make a softer blend.

5. Spatula paint scraper: I use these to get paint out or paint cans (it helps keep the surface flat as you pull the color out thus slowing drying). But I also use them as paint erasers. I simply scrape the canvas with these with the blunt ends to pull off the errant paint strokes.

6. Flared, blunt Japanese palette knife: This is great for blending and making leaf-shaped marks. Like all the Japanese knives in this set, it has a very stiff blade which requires a softer touch.

7. Flat, serrated Japanese palette knife: I use the tip of this knife to blend edges that are too hard. That is, where the value of contiguous shapes is too divergent. Using this can give a very chaotic edge.

8. Broad, square serrated palette knife: This is similar to the previous knife, but the blade is more flexible (I haven't found an online source yet).

9. Small, broad pie-shaped palette knife: This moves a lot of paint but has a less blunt tip.

10. Thin, square palette knife: This is great for making flat tipped shapes like fence posts and details on architecture. You can make any palette knife a blunt tipped palette knife by cutting the tip off with a pair of tin snips. This is handy if you want a set of knives with differing widths.

11. Small spatula palette knife: Good for creating broad, flat blends (I haven't found an online source yet).

12. Large spatula palette knife: Same as above but on a larger scale. Note: this is actually a spatula for cooking, but it works just as good as an artist's knife but is cheaper.

13. Brush-like, serrated Japanese palette knife: This is a stiff blade that is great for blending edges and creating jagged blends.

14: Pie-shaped, serrated Japenese palette knife: Much like the above but having a broader swathe. Good for infusing texture into a blank patch of paint.

15. Thin, knife-shaped palette knife: Great for making branches, or other linear marks (I haven't found an online source as yet).

16. Small, pie-shaped palette knife: This is like palette knife #1 above but with a more linear mark making tip.

17. Large, serrated Japanese palette knife: I'm not entirely sure what to do with this one but it is so cool I have to have it in my kit. If you don't have a palette knife you will never discover what it might be used for.

18. Flat nosed, serrated palette knife: This is good for making very subtle brush-like textures. (I haven't found an online source for this as yet).

19. Canvas scraper: This is good for sgraffito techniques (scrapping into wet paint) which I use to reveal the underpainting in selects areas.

Let me know if you know of any other interesting knives.

Brad Teare –July 2017

Above painting: Road Near Avon, 20" x 20", available at Anthony's Fine Art

Friday, June 23, 2017

329: My Favorite Palette Knife

–I recently switched over to using palette knives for the entirety of my painting process. I cross-examined my motives, as I can embrace ideas for the wrong reasons at times (like laziness). But in this case, I think using palette knives exclusively makes sense, and I will definitely be open to using brushes in the future if my experiment with palette knives doesn't prove satisfying. Using palette knives makes for quick cleanup. So far I've been able to replicate every stroke I make with brushes. Getting solvents out of the studio is also a huge bonus.

I use a wide range of knives, but several have proven to be favorites, especially when painting a medium size canvas (although I use these on the details of larger canvases as well). The first is a small blunt-nosed knife that is perfect for quickly laying in broad detail. I prefer a similar shape for larger paintings (the large, blunt pie-shaped knife in this set). These knives are the workhorses of my current painting process. Some shapes, like really long, flexible, pie shaped knives I have yet to figure out what they are good for. In time I may figure out what to do with them (leave a comment if you know).

One of my all-time favorites is a Gecko leaf shaped knife that is so versatile I find myself using it for huge passages of my paintings, large or small. I use the broad edge for laying in paint quickly, and the flared edges for adding small detail like fence posts and branches. The broad edge is great for blending patches of color together. I often load the knife with another knife (usually the small, blunt variety mentioned above). I hold the blunt knife in my left hand and swipe some multi-varied color onto it from the palette and apply the paint onto the Ginko leaf shaped knife in my right hand. It's an amazingly versatile tool, and by loading it, I can get a wide range of beautifully variegated color. I hope to do a video of this technique soon.

Brad Teare –June 2017

Saturday, June 3, 2017

328: The Mystery of Plein Air Painting

–"YOU can't till you can" sounds like a quip from baseball's low-brow philosopher Yogi Bera. But it's actually a quote from ├╝ber-intellectual and color theorist Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. What he meant is that there is often an inexplicable alchemy that, after a long duration, allows you to do what you previously couldn't.

I recently crossed into that territory with my plein air paintings after a long dry spell. People were kind to me, telling me that my plein air paintings were fine. But in my gut, I knew the paintings lacked some essential ingredient. So how did I close the gap between my studio and my plein air paintings? Did I dive intently into painting in the field creating painting after painting without regard to success? Did I study everything I could find about the subject until I couldn't cram anything else into my brain?

I took none of those reasonable steps. I basically failed at a plein air event in the summer of 2014 and didn't do another plein air painting until a week ago. I didn't practice, study, or think about plein air painting in any way. Until waking up one day last week and walking up a nearby canyon with my plein air gear I had experienced zero success with plein air painting–because I made no attempt to succeed. But that evening I set up my easel and with effort as easy as breathing I knocked out a passable painting, large for a field painting, as if I had been painting en plein air for a decade.

I mention this transformation because I haven't read of any parallels in the success literature I tend to peruse. Plus, I like narratives that contravene convention. Plus, I'm thrilled, if mystified, by my transformation. In the end, art is more magic than science, more alchemy than chemistry. I'm thankful for that.

In the following video, I make a few corrections to my plein air painting. Here is a link to the clips I use to transport my paintings.

Brad Teare –June 2017

View from City Creek, plein air, 24" x 24", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

327: Acrylic Show

–IF you are in Salt Lake City from June 1 to June 17, 2017, I hope you will drop into Alpine Art to view my acrylics show. It is a collection of acrylic landscapes and abstracts, mostly large-scale, painted in a broken color technique reminiscent of my oil paintings but with a more primitive color application.

Let me know what you think.

Brad Teare –June 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

326: The Importance of Daily Sketching

–EVERY artist knows the importance of a daily sketchbook. My problem has been that I often don't have my sketchbook handy when I need it. I recently stumbled on a solution called Sketch Wallet. As the name implies it's about the size of a wallet and has a sketchbook inside (as well as space for a small pencil) and slots for a drivers license, cash, and credit cards. Since I never leave home without my wallet, using the Sketch Wallet will make sure I always have a sketchbook with me.

The Sketch Wallet comes with a sketchbook insert with 52 pages. I think I will only sketch on the right side opting to use the left side for notes. The paper is robust, taking erasure without problems, and their website shows several artists using ink with the paper, which looks like it works quite nicely. The pencil is a bit too hard for my tastes so I will carry a pencil case to hold my gear, including woodless pencils, a kneaded eraser, and a Pentel pen with an extra cartridge.

I'm excited to use this new product that came into being via a Kickstarter campaign a year ago. I've been a bit lax with my sketchbook–missing many choice opportunities to record quality compositions over the years. This product will help me hone my drawing and compositional skills while creating a great library of imagery to energize my landscape painting.

Just as a smartphone ensures having access to a camera 24/7 I now have my sketchbook with me at all times. Many thanks to the people at Sketchwallet.com.

Brad Teare –May 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

325: Our Dream World

–WHY do people like paintings? Why do they hang them in their homes and offices and travel to see museum exhibits? More people attend museums and galleries than any other cultural activity–more than theater and concerts. Approximately 850 million people visit American museums each year–more than the attendance at all major league sporting events and theme parks combined.

On my walk this morning I passed a cafe and began wondering about the social lives of the people sitting in the courtyard. When I got home, I began thinking about a call I needed to make to my gallery. I wanted to broach some ideas about how to garner more attention and possibly write some articles for art magazines. Over breakfast, I thought about an upcoming painting trip, mentally reviewing spots I might like to paint. While I walked, ate, and took care of morning tasks my mind was generating a rich imaginary world. Except for the ground I walked on and the food I ate, the primary experiences of my morning took place in my imagination.

As I thought about it, it seemed as if most of our lives take place in the world of our imaginations; setting goals, planning creative projects, worry, watching movies and TV, playing video games, reading a book, or reading this blog. All of these experiences take place in the mind and generate differing states of consciousness. Reading a book is entirely different from reading a graphic novel. The reason I prefer one book over another is the level of absorption the work produces. I want a book to be so engaging I lose awareness of the physical world. Great art allows us to escape the burden of our own consciousness.

In a recent podcast, I quoted Mark Rothko who wrote that "painting is not a record of an experience; it is an experience." There are paradoxical aspects of this statement, but the idea is that somehow a painting is a primary experience. But it is also an imaginary experience that evokes an emotional state akin to watching a movie or reading a book. Yet unlike a book or a movie, a painting exists only in space, and not time. Although a hallmark of a great painting is that over time you discover an infinitude of meaning and detail, you nevertheless see a painting instantly. In one moment you are exposed to its entirety.

Stillness combined with immediacy are aspects that make a painting an indispensable facet of the human experience. A painting instantly conveys a freight load of information that can only be assimilated subconsciously. It creates an imaginary, psychic world the viewer can inhabit with the glance of an eye.

For these reasons, paintings remain one of the most important of our imaginary experiences. When we place paintings in our homes we control, stimulate, and nurture our imaginary world.

Brad Teare –May 2017

Above: Women Who Run with the Wolves, limited edition woodcut, available here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

324: The Difficult Truth

–I recently came across a video by Jeffrey R.Watts that had a lot of valuable information, especially for young artists. Watts spoke candidly about what it takes to become an artist. Before watching the video I had never known his work, possibly because I might have seen it and thought it was by Nicolai Fechin–Watts' work is incredibly similar to that master painter. But the passion of Watts for teaching art comes through strong in the video. I'm not necessarily suggesting that artists enroll in his program, although anyone with his passion and clarity is a good candidate for being able to teach art well.

Regardless of the field of art you are pursuing I think Watts' advice is good. I'm not sure an atelier experience would have been the ideal experience for me but I certainly wish I had access to this information when I was a young aspiring artist. Let me know what you think.

Brad Teare –May 2017

Spring Fields, (above), 17" x 36", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Saturday, April 29, 2017

323: Anti-advertising

–WHY is art important? This is a question even artists, who should appreciate art the most, have trouble answering. When people choose to trivialize the importance of art, they cite ideas like no poem ever stopped a war or other statements that minimize the possibility of significance.

But perhaps solutions come much earlier in the process of human development. I have a hypothesis, as yet unproven, that no one who ever experienced a creative flow state could ever be content with a life of sloth and waste.

But if art is so potentially transformative why are so many people inured to the benefits of art? The book The End of Advertising by Andrew Essex, predicts the extinction of pop-up ads, the end of incessant jabbering of pre-Youtube spiels, the demise of Facebook pics of fungally overwhelmed toenails, and other eye-lacerating visual effluvia polluting our daily visual experience. With so many supposedly creative people generating so much garbage you have to ask what good does the uglification of our experience accomplish? Such intrusion is called advertising. And according to advertisers, and the people who pay for it, it achieves a great deal. Contemplate that reality for a moment.

Now think of art as anti-advertising. Instead of assaulting your eye and irritating you with incessant visual noise you see images that refresh you. You see images that stimulate your subconscious into releasing its hidden wonders. Your vision is filled with color, movement, and shapes that soothe yet spur you to think beyond your normal capacity. Those images are what we call art.

When we see art as an antidote to our over-stimulated and often irrational world, we understand the value of art. When we see art as islands of meaning, we coalesce meaning within ourselves. When we see art as a counterbalance to the too-muchness of 21st-century life, we begin to understand how a life without art is a diminished life. Choose to live a full, expansive life. Choose art.

Brad Teare –April 2017

Spires of Ben Lomond, (above), 36" x 36", acrylic on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Thursday, April 27, 2017

322: My New York Adventure

–RECENTLY I was a guest on the Zion Art Society podcast, with Dr. Micah Christenen, and was asked about my experience as an illustrator in New York City. Although the podcast was about Utah painter LaConte Stuart and his influence on my landscape work (listen here) we did talk briefly about my illustration career. I hadn't thought about my New York experience for a while. It brought back good memories.

It reminded me of the convoluted path I've taken to get to my current level as a landscape painter. I had to see a lot of paintings, do a lot of drawing, and ultimately adjust a lot of my thinking before I learned to paint well. It seemed chaotic at the time, but in retrospect, the journey contained all the right obstacles to get me where I am.

The above illustration was the first assignment I received on my first day in New York City. It was for an editorial for The New York Times. The article described how helping newly hatched Galapagos turtles find their way to the sea is a detriment to the hatchlings. If the young turtles are helped by observers, they don't develop the strength to survive once they get to the sea. The scientists had to restrain themselves as they observed the turtles struggle and allow them to endure the tortuous journey across the beach–even if it meant seeing many of them eaten by hawks. In retrospect, the story seems like an allegory for how young artists need to find their own way–often in challenging circumstances. (But remember; with art nobody dies).

Another interesting insight as I remember that first assignment was how mature my style seemed despite being a fledgling illustrator. It's obvious that woodcut and related arts, such as scratchboard, came easily to me. Unlike the decades-long struggle to become a competent landscape painter.

In this blog, I've reviewed many books that discuss theories of improvement. The most prevalent idea can be described as the 10,000-hour theory. The theory claims that anyone can become world-class in any field if they spend 10,000 hours of focused practice. My experiences with woodcut and painting provide two radically different views. Woodcut came easily to me and required far less than the requisite 10,000 hours. Painting required far more.

My journey illustrates how different such endeavors can be–even in the life of one artist.

Brad Teare –April 12017


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