Thursday, June 23, 2011

Get There 1.2

This is definitely one of those moments in the painting where everything can go south. I should have painted the green area (circled above) all through the lower half of the land as well; then painted the more neutral brown on top. This was the same mistake I made on this painting before I had to start over the first time. I'm not quite sure I how let myself do this again but it tends to be the mistake I make the most frequently. It is crucial to be patient with these paintings and work through every step thoroughly. I should have waited to paint the brown. I might also just be having bad luck with browns in general; notice the awkward specks of the umberish color near the bottom? It may not show too harshly now but once I throw varnish on this thing the umber is going to look like all hell. I'll need to knock it back with some scumbling or glazing.

Chance of image being uploaded within a week depicting this painting, smashed on my studio floor: 30%

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stretcher Bars

Getting a decent pair of stretcher bars can be a nightmare. I've known a handful of people who take pride in making them themselves but speaking as someone whose time is a major issue, and who has also seen what home made stretcher bars look like in a few decades, buying a decent pair makes more sense.

For a while I was using Dick Blick's heavy duty bars. They were pretty strong and were good for most cases but still seemed to warp between the cross bracing on larger canvases. Most of the time I am using a heavy duty canvas that I tighten with water after stretching. It puts a hell of lot of pressure on the stretcher frame.

A while back I went to a group show that my friend Steve Johnson had a piece in. He worked in graphite and gesso on enormous canvases that he had to disassemble to roll and store the pieces at home. He used stretcher bars called Pro Bars made by a company called Best. (Buy them through Utrecht instead of Dick Blick because for some reason the Dick Blick website would automatically include a $40 handling fee. Even if you didn't do any customization.) They were a bizarre metal and wood hybrid bar that were sturdy as all hell. For his case they were easy to take apart and had customizable metal keys that could tighten the canvas by turning a bolt as opposed to hammering in a wooden wedge. I invested in a pair myself and assembled the stretcher frame below.

I added screws to the corners (be sure to pre drill holes with a countersink bit because this hardwood splits easy), which negated some of the usefulness of the corner keys because the stretchers now cannot separate the corners as well, but ensured more stability from torquing, the most common stretcher problem. I also used two aluminum L-braces per corner (inside the metal) for more stability.

I was nervous about trying to pre-drill holes in metal and over compensated in preparing for its difficulty. It was just about as easy to drill into the aluminum as wood and I probably wasted money buying extra drill bits (be sure to pre-drill small holes to screw into so the thread on the screw really can pull the screw in tight). Best makes cross braces for their bars that come with their own set of plastic joining brackets. They're dandy I suppose but since Home Depot sells 1 x 2s and metal braces they aren't entirely necessary if you have access to a chop saw. If you don't then you can request Best to notch your cross braces for you when you buy them and use the plastic brackets that come included.

Crate screws worked nicely for attaching the bracing since Home Depot didn't have a proper size wafer screw. The center bracing looked a little ridiculous but is plenty sturdy. I decided to use normal wood screws on the sides of the braces because the ones I had were longer and had a better thread for the wood. They stuck out a little but that didn't bother me because they were not on the back. I can be picky with those kinds of things.

This whole contraption came to about $175. I know that is not an option for everyone and many artists prefer to make their own stretchers out of 1 x 2s or 2 x 4s with quarter rounds glued on the top, but I'll tell you this: If you are planning on making a painting larger than four feet in any particular direction, you are going to want to invest in it's stability. Take a moment to calculate how long it takes for you to build stretchers from scratch (buying materials, gluing, screwing, etc. I can assure you that you don't put them together in just a few hours), then take that time and multiply how much per hour you make at your day job, then add in the cost of the materials. Your probably not too far off from the cost of these stretchers, which will preserve your canvas much better and reassure any client who is interested in buying your painting. After all, a painting that large probably won't be cheap and it's structure should support that fact as well. Better stretchers will also save you the piece of mind of not having your canvas warp midway through a painting and leaving you stuck with no safe way to remove it from the stretchers and re-stretching it without damaging the surface.

At least, this is all what I'm hoping. We'll see when I get a canvas on this crazy thing.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Modern "Painters"

Ever notice how Modern Painters magazine never has painters on the cover?

Monday, June 13, 2011


LA is a fantastic place to feel self conscious.

Just one of the many exciting sites of LA
Fitness in Hollywood can be considered an important and comparative part between art and culture. I would like to think that at least one tan skinned, physically fit LA-nean spends his day at work regretting that he didn't get up earlier to get to the gym first thing in the morning. Maybe he would even try to squeeze in some crunches on his break. Maybe he wouldn't even be on his break. After all, he wouldn't want to wait and probably wouldn't let himself anyway. It would probably drive him crazy.

12 hours in LA
When he would get his turn at the gym it probably would feel all wrong and his exercises wouldn't go well. He would have been practicing his techniques for as long as he could remember and would spend a lot of time cursing himself for making the same mistakes repeatedly. It wouldn't be enough to think about his workout all of the time and there would be no resolution in constantly second guessing himself and his work ethic. He would convince himself that there was too much inaction. That he had spent all day at his job thinking about the gym instead of being at the gym. He would have the same regrets every time he would meet with his friends, even though he would find solace in their company. The same would go for his family as well and he probably couldn't help but feel a little guilty about it.

16 hours in LA
I would like to think that he would talk about the gym all of the time too. It would probably be all he knows and leaving him struggling to hold his composure through any other conversation. When he does it would only last so long before slipping up and starting to talk about his regrets and the nagging feeling he can't shake at night; that if his workout had been a little more structured he wouldn't have had to spend so much time doing it over and over again.

20 hours in LA
He doesn't have time to be this unproductive, right? He would probably have to take a stand at some point and really start telling his peers that he needs to treat his workout like employment and be more dependable. He would assume that they would nod in agreement but probably be offended the first time he cancels plans with them.

Umami with Daniel Marshall, "no big deal"
The real shame though, would be that he would be ignoring the fact that the opportunity to attend the gym is a blessing. And not in a monetary sense, either, but in that he had been fortunate enough to have exercise be a part of his life in the first place. That it had given him a warming sense of purpose and had helped shape his character. When he would finally consider this the moment, though embarrassingly sacharrine, would lift his spirits and prepare him for his own routine.

Famous Malibu sun
I would like to think that in LA this would happen millions of times every day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On a positive note:

I am beginning June on the heels of my first rejection from a juried show. Oddly enough, the rejection wasn't the part that concerned me. I was more troubled by the fact that I have never submitted art to an open call before. I probably should have submitted to a handful of those by now. Actually, I should have a whole pile of rejections by now! In this case, productivity is more important than results.