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Monday, August 10, 2015
Don't you hate...

 Some things that I find annoying/frustrating as an artist.

 Painting a nice straight line and all is well and a twitch and bummer

 Running low on paint and the art supply store is miles away and suddenly all the paintings seem to require the missing paint.

  When I tip the water dish over when cleaning the brush.

  Upsetting the palette onto the floor when reaching for colour without looking. Why does it always land upside down?

   Butter fingers and dropping a loaded paint brush. It will either land on the painting somewhere inappropriate or on the carpet, or on the good clothes.

  Staring at a blank canvas for days unsure what to put on it.

   Getting half way through a painting  and have to abandon it because it is just not working.

   Rendering something perfectly only to realize upon further examination that the perspective is wrong and having to do it again.

   Green....anyone who does landscape paintings knows what I am talking about. If not..well greens are very difficult to render depth with.

   Waiting for oils to dry so I can continue on.

   Acrylics drying faster than I want to. 

Posted by glenfrear at 3:02 PM PDT
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Thursday, August 2, 2012
The business of art
   Recently I have been put in the position where I must decide what to do for a career. I could continue with what I was doing before, or I could look at recent events as an opportunity and go in a new direction and try to earn a living from what I love to do. That is not nearly as easy as it may seem. Paint some pictures, put them in a gallery for all to see and wait for the money to roll in. The truth is I could be waiting for a long time unless I do something to move things along. There are quite a number of steps that need to be done to make more sales, and allow me to go in the direction I would like. The first step is to lower some of the expenses, for the truth is the level of income will not be as high as when I worked full time, but some things are more important than large numbers of shiney things. Next is to create more work. The more paintings one has, the more likely it is that there will be something that appeals to someone else. But the work has to be of a quality; no churning out work just to churn out work. Then there is marketing. This is more difficult for me, being of the shy retiring type, but it is important. A website, blog, facebook account, they all help, but so does going from gallery to gallery until you find one that fits the style of work. I will probably be found at numerous festivals and art shows in coming months. This is the start of a scary, but potentially rewarding journey

Posted by glenfrear at 1:59 PM PDT
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Sunday, March 7, 2010
Creating a painting

     Most of the paintings that I have done have been the result of an interesting image that I have seen that I have wanted to capture. I usually work from photographs that I use as a reference, and most often a photograph that I have taken will resonate in such a way that I feel that I have to paint it. 

 Such was the situation with a recent painting that I did. As many of you that follow my work may know, I am rather obsessed with railroads and trains, especially steam locomotives and bridges, so when the Canadian Pacific Railway put together a train with their restored Hudson steam locomtive to tour the province to help celebrate the 150th anniversary, well I had to go and see it. I was hoping that I would be able to book passage on the train, as they had allowed this on previous excursions, and so I convinced a freind that he should come with me to southern BC on a photo trip-mainly so that he could drive and pick me up at the next stop. So off we go to Cranbrook where it was scheduled to be the next day.

     We arrived late in the afternoon, found a hotel and went to eat. As we left the restaurant we heard the locomotive entering the town, and we went to meet it. It was well dark by then, and there was no pictures to be had, but we did get a departure time for the next morning , but learned that there was no passage to be had on this trip. Dissapointment all around, but we would make the best of it. The next day was a beautiful clear day, and we got to the railyard an hour before departure(due to the fact that there was a time zone difference, or we would have actually been several minutes late), and many great pictures were taken. Then when it left we followed it to the small town of Yahk, with the highway paralleling the railroad in many areas. Many more great pictures and videos were taken and we enjoyed the celebrations in Yahk as well.

     What has all of this to do with creating a painting? Well it is sometimes about lucky accidents. None of the pictures that were taken that morning were worthy of a painting. Even though the lighting was great, the action and backdrops wonderful, nothing had that special something. We had had fun, but that was all we were getting out of the trip it appeared. From Yahk to Creston there are very few places where the tracks are visable from the highway, so I told my friend that I knew of a place that may make for some nice pictures. So we drove ahead of the train, but by quite a sizeable time frame as it turned out.

     A few miles to the east of Creston there is a vertical walled canyon carved by the Goat River. This Canyon is crossed by a long road bridge, which in turn is crossed by the railraod on an even longer bridge. So this is where we set up camp. Steam locomotives attract numerous fans, and so we were soon joined by a number of others of a like mind. We paced around, looking for the best photo locations, and kept looking to the east waiting for the train. Before it could arrive the sky darkened, and it began to rain. It soon was raining too hard for us to maintain our spots on the road bridge and we had to seek shelter. Many went under the road bridge, while I tried under the train bridge. Not very good as it turned out(open deck, water goes right through) so I had to take refuge in the car. I could see a short distance down the track, but the way it was raining it wouldn't matter when it came. After what seemed forever the rain let up, and I risked getting out of the car, and I looked back down the track, and there was the damned train, mere feet from the bridge. I dashed out on the highway bridge and snapped a couple of pictures as the locomotive tiptoed across the bridge.  No one else had even seen the train until it had almost gone.

     When I looked at the images on the camera I was crestfallen. The camera had been inadvertantly changed to manual settings, and the image was horribly overexposed and out of focus. There was no sky visable at all. And to top it all off a car crossed the bridge just then, and I thought ruined everything. But when I returned home I kept looking at the picture and liked what I saw none the less. It was actually a nice compostion, and the car actually complimented everything, so I made a print, and set to work. I had to create the sky, and another friend suggested that I attempt to capture the mood of the day, so I painted a very dark sky with sheets of rain visable. I had to use other pictures to reference the locomotive, but the trees, well they did not matter, for they never look like the photos anyway. I also had to fake parts of the railroad bridge, as they were lost in my horrible photo, and I decided to change the generic car to a red version of my own car. It had to be red to work with the train. As it turns out it is one of my favourite pieces, and I think that I have managed to capture a mood from the day.



Posted by glenfrear at 2:59 PM PST
Updated: Sunday, March 7, 2010 4:31 PM PST
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Friday, March 5, 2010
What makes a masterpiece

    Art is everywhere, and a significant portion of the population creates art work in some form or another. So what makes one creation a masterpeice, and another just a nice painting.

     I believe that talent is a myth, or perhaps not as significant as people may think. When people suggest that an artist has a lot of talent, and that they could never do that, what they are overlooking is the fact that he or she has worked for a long time to get where they are today. What seperates the true artist from the spectator is the drive and desire to create. To take the failures and setbacks and learn from them, and to carry on. It takes many hours of practice to become really good at anything, from playing the violin, to writing novels, to painting, but even then a person may have superb technical skills, but still may only produce lifless work. Many studies suggest that as many as 10,000 hours of practice are required to become an expert.  The people that are at the top of their respective fields are there because they never gave up. But being an expert is not a guarantee that a masterpeice will result.

      I feel that what makes a masterpiece is the emotion that comes through when it is created. A landscape painting can easily be nothing more than a painting of mountains and trees, or it can evoke deep feelings in the viewer. How does this happen? First of all the artist has to have an emotional attachment to the subject he is painting, and if he feels it strongly enough it will show itself in the finished product. Think of it like this. When you look at a painting what do you feel. Does it trigger a strong memory, do you hear the birds singings, feel a breeze blowing, imagine yourself there. Or do you go, oh, that's a nice picture? A masterpiece is something that a viewer keeps coming back to again and again because it days something to him or here. It may not be the same thing each time, but there is always something that brings them back.

    Okay, so now that I think that I have figured out what may or may not make a masterpiece, how to I make my paintings masterpeices. Well I am not sure. I think that I may have touched on works that almost trigger that feeling, but usually I create paintings that people go itsn't that a nice painting, and not more. The trouble is that I can looks at the painting and get the feeling, but does anyone else. Well there's the problem. I guess I just have to put my heart and soul into all of the works that I make, and hope that it comes through in the finished product. Art, like anything else, can either be a job, or it can be a passion that you are driven to do.

Posted by glenfrear at 6:09 AM PST
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

     I read a letter recently in an art magazine about art competitions and originality. The woman that wrote the letter is a regular juror for a regional art competition and she is of the opinion that all works of art should be completely concieved by the artist, and no part of it should be derived from any other art works of any kind, including photgraphs. A noble ideal to be sure, but one that is unrealistic I think. Some of the thinking for this idea comes from the Disney perspective on copywrite law.

    In the modern commercial art scene all artistic creations belong to the artist, or in the case of Disney, the corporation that created them. No one can use the creation for their own commercial gain except for the artist. This applies to all art forms, painting, sculpture, music, film, writing. The copywrite is automaticaly applied as soon as the work is created and is in effect for the duration of the life of the artist plus some period of years beyond his death, unless renewed. The copywrite belongs to the artist, unless it is transfered, which is what happened to the music of the Beatles. Micheal Jackson now owns the copywrite to their music, and profits from the songs whenever they are played. As a result of this all, some artists are very possesive of their copywrite, and guard it ferociously. They stand to lose money if someone uses their material without permission.

      But, does that mean that all works of art that have been created origianl? Absolutely not. It has been said, for instance, that there are only seven plots, and all novels written are but reiterations of these. Perhaps, but for sure art is reused, reworked, reinvented, recreated. One can look anywhere for examples, in movies, where many movies are direct plays of Shakespeare, or barely concealed plays, or perhaps only use the plot. (Ten things I Hate about you-The Taming of the Shrew;West Side Story-Romeo and Juliet ,for example) Of course Shakespeare has been dead for 400 years and there was no copywrite law when he wrote. Whenever I listen to music I can here bits and pieces that sound like other songs that I have heard.

    What I am trying to say is that there is very little truley original art. That does not mean that we can have free rein to use other peoples images(photos, paintings, writings,etc) as is. That is what copywrite violation is about. But so often the grey areas are what show up in the law courts, which does nothing to help art flourish. What it all means is that go ahead and use other works to generate ideas, but be careful. Make what you create your own. Any elements that come from photos or other paintings should not be recognizable as such, unless permission has been acquired. Or a court of law could be in our future.

Posted by glenfrear at 7:14 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 7:54 PM PDT
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Saturday, May 30, 2009
Video animation

     I am have been trying something new over the last few weeks. Of course it is only new for me, but still it might be interesting to see the results. I have been making stop motion video clips of the painting that have been working on over the last several months. It is a little rough, and I might be able to clean it up with an editor, and I had the idea in the middle of the painting, but when I run the clips together, it looks a little as if the painting is painting itself. Hopefully future paintings will work better, but this is the first attempt, and it still is pretty good even so. The biggest challenge in all of this is the camera setup. I needed to set it up an a tripod, and lock it into one spot for the duration, so that I had consistent camera angles. I had shoot it in situ, but I found that I could not get the entire painting shot evenly. Eventually I mounted the painting on the wall and drew a pencil line on two edges so that it would always hang in the same spot, and then shot a short clip after every painting session. More work, and the results are sketchy, but hopefully it will be refined and future attempts will look more professional. With a smaller painting I could probably film it right where it is being painted. Then I will have to try some shots will it is being painted.

     Once I get the camera learned, I will have to try making workshop videos. Might need a stunt double. Ha!

Posted by glenfrear at 5:38 PM PDT
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Saturday, May 23, 2009
Working together

     Artist's are interesting people. By all accounts they are supposed to be the force for change. Art is the vehicle to make the world a better place, by pointing out what is wrong and offering up ways that ity could be better. But there is a party of being an artist that flies in the face of all of that and that is in the realm of co-operation. One thing that artists-at least visual artists- do not do very well is work as part of a group. And it is surprising because when we do play together it is generally so rewarding, and the creativity flows so much that one would think that we couldn't have enough of it. But experience says otherwise. Try to organize a painting group, or offer up help to other artists and see what kind of resistance occurs. Co-operation is one of the things that has driven humans forward as a species. If it were not for or ability to work together for the good of the whole, instead of as individuals we would not have the roads and bridges and schools and hospitals and an infinite number of other things that we take for granted every day.

     There are many ways that we could work together to better our art endevours. We can help each other with the creative process. Painting and drawing tend to be individual enterprises, but that does not mean that we have to do everything by ourselves. Join in to painting groups. Some of the most creative times are spent in art school, not only because you are being taught how to create, but also because you see others create, and that energy is infectious. Another way that we are at odds with each other is with pricing. We should really all price equivilant products similarily, but instead in any co-operative(a misnamed enterprise if ever there was one) the artists and crafters are constantly undercutting each other to enhance their own sales at the expense of the others. We can also share information that we have learned. Instead of being afraid that someone may get an advantage over us, if we freely give out information, we can expect to get information back. The group as a whole can do better.

      If there is anything that can be learned from human history, the group does better than the individual. Artists should stop trying to be strictly individuals, and start being part of the group. Now how do I start enacting this in my own little part of the world? Maybe give, and hope that others don't just try to take advantage of me,  and will give back.

Posted by glenfrear at 3:07 PM PDT
Updated: Saturday, May 23, 2009 3:33 PM PDT
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Subject Matters

     What's in a subject? What is the painting about anyway? To be honest I have never been able to buy into the whole meaning of the work of art thing. You know the stuff-"I painted this piece to represent the oppression of the working class by the industrial elite". All rot if you ask me. Most of these works of art take an enormous stretch of imagination to see what the artist means. So what if the painting is really a painting of a lake? Now that doesn't mean that it doesn't mean something, but it is something far more personal. For the artist it may be a favoured spot that was visited as a child, or a place that took his breath away when it was first viewed, and had to be recorded. To take the energy to apply paint to canvas, or pencil to paper does far more for me to capture a place or image than a photograph ever could.

      There are many reasons for me to paint a particular subject. A drive to Banff last summer and a fabulous view of the moutains and the river and trees, and a picture is born. A hike through an abandoned section of railroad, and a desire to capture the bridges in paint. One pair of paintings that I especially like came about from a challenge. For many years I had entered a regional juried art show with little success, and one year one of the jurors said to be that the painting was nice, but what would make it special was if I would focus in on the subject more(it was of a train in front of Mt Robson)-like the ties or the track or something. I went home thinking initially that these art critics sure don't know anything about paintings, but as I thought about this I decided that it might be fun to do a painting of just the wheels of a locomotive. What a great idea it turned out to be, selected entry next art show, sold shortly after, and a similar painting commissioned by another collector.

       The best bet for a successful painting is to paint the things that you know and love the most. For me that is trains, and parts of trains, bridges, aircraft, cars, okay any machine, water, rocks and moutains, and animals. I have been told in the past that I should paint local landscapes, or puppies and kittens or such rot, for they would certainly sell better. That may well be true, but I know for sure that the best art work that I make is painted of the things that I find the most interesting. So a painting of a puppy may be more popular than a painting of a steam locomotive, but I will enjoy painting the locomotive more and the final result will show that.

Posted by glenfrear at 6:07 PM PDT
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Monday, May 18, 2009
Why Acrylics

     People have asked me why I paint with Acrylics, and not with oils or watercolour or some other medium. I just wound up painting with this medium as the result of experimentation. Some artists that I know are very biased about their medium of choice, but for me they all have merits as well as drawbacks. When I started painting we all used poster paints and watercolours for the most basic of reasons, they were the most affordable and the easiest to work with and clean up if we made a mess. As I got older I wanted to try other things and an older student(this was in high school) painted with oils and I wanted to try it, so she agreed to give me lessons. I loved the opaqueness of them, and fact that they were thicker than watercolour, so I painted with them for a number of years. I would still be painting with them, but for the fact that I wanted to be able to paint finer detail, and was unhappy with the oils and I saw an article of a wildlife painter that painted the way I wanted and he painted in acrylics. So I bought a starter set and away I went. Turns out that it is not the medium that sets the style at all, but how you paint with it, but I was committed to the new medium, having spent some of my money on paint and brushes. But as it has turned out acrylics is the medium for me for a number of reasons.

   For one thing the way that I paint is perfect for the medium. Acrylics dry quickly, which can be a huge problem, but I addapted to the fact, and paint with it. Paint a section, wait a bit for it to dry, and paint a layer on top, as many as you wish. I tend to paint in little bursts and love the fact that I have no worries about contaminating wet paint with new paint. Another advantage is ease of cleanup. Acrylics are water soluble, so all one needs to clean brushes is a dish of water. Which also means I can paint anywhere. A little water, and away I go, and because they dry in minutes, wait a bit, and carry the painting safely away.

   That is not to say that I think that acrylics are better than oils, they are not, and they are not worse, they are only different. A finished painting has merit for its design and execution, and what it is painted with is really irrelevent. Too many people look at a painting and judge it based on what it is painted with and that is really unfair to the piece. There are many different media, and they alll have benefits for the artist, and drawbacks.

    Oils are great to paint with because they blend together nicely and the smell of the oil is a great part of the experience, but they take forever to dry, and the solvents required can be toxic, and cleanup is difficult. Buyers like they because they have history. The first oils paints were used 500 years ago and they have demonstrated their permenence, but used incorrectly they will crack and yellow with time.

    Watercolours have a wonderful transluscence which gives them an ephemeral quality unique to the medium, but they are difficult to use well, and they fact they are painted on  paper, gives the medium a relative short life span if not done right. And watercolour is not very forgiving of mistakes.

     Tempera is another water based medium that an ancient lineage. It has been used in one form or another for millennia. They are very durable and some of the most famous works are painted this way. Egg tempura uses egg white as the carrier for the pigment, which makes the paint a lot of work, the dry pigments are mixed with the egg, and only what is needed for the session is made.

     Fresco is one the most durable-the Sistine Chapel ceiling is a fresco painting. To paint with fresco a tempura paint is applied to a section a freshly applied wet plaster, which absorbs the pigment deep into the material. As a result the painting becomes part of the wall, not just painted on the surface. A fresco must be painted while the plaster is fresh, so only as much as one is willing to paint is applied at a time.

      Acrylics is almost a mix of the other media. Its medium is a polymer emulsion, and as the water evaporates it forms long chain molecule which is water resitant. The reason it can be painted over with out affecting underlying layers. But because it is water based it can also be thinned and applied like watercolour. It can be used with watercolours, or painted like watercolours, it can be painted on many different substrates, can be applied thick or thin, opaque or tranparent, however one wishes. But it does have a lack of history, which is the reason for the bias away from it. Acrylics have only been around for about 70 years-a long way from the centuries of the other media, and as much as the experts claim it to be durable, only time will really be the judge.

Posted by glenfrear at 11:00 AM PDT
Updated: Monday, May 18, 2009 5:07 PM PDT
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Sunday, May 17, 2009
The life of an artist

     What does it mean to be an artist? Who really knows for sure. I was having a conversation with my sister recently about creating and she had an interesting comment that got me to thinking. When we were children we both created works of art as most children do, but as we grew older I continued painting and drawing and she put it aside to raise her family. I said that I could never have done that, and she retorted that if it definded you be an artist, well then it was to expected. I went home and thought about that statement, and have come to the conclusion that I am not really all about the art, but it is clearly something that I truely want to do. Perhaps that is the case with all artists. I am not going to say that I feel the need to represent the oppression of the masses by the elite, or any of that tripe that is used to often to explain why we create. I don't really know why, but I have always wanted to paint and draw and make things, and no matter how busy I have become I have always had the time to create.

      Trying to be an artist has turned out to be not at all what I thought it would be. I was so naive as to believe when I was an adolescent that all I had to do was paint wonderful pictures and the masses would flock to my door demanding one of their very own. What a let down that turned out to be. Not only were my paintings no where near as good as I had thought, but selling the things is hard damned work. In fact it is more work than making the paintings. So one does what one needs to to survive, and you work in another field to pay the bills and paint in your spare time, and gradually master your craft because you want to do better, and time passes, and a few works sell, and more time passes. Then one day you realize that maybe all the worring about if you might succeed is wasted time, because you have not really definded what success is and when you think about it your already there. Sales are okay, people like what you have done, your real job is not too horrible, and you have enough money that you can do whatever kind of art you want. And that is something. If I wanted to change direction and do metal sculpture I can. I have the freedom to do what I want as an artist, and that may well be for the best.



Posted by glenfrear at 8:15 PM PDT
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