Sunday, November 30, 2008

A few good ideas...

Stacey mentioned, "I like to think of it ( painting )as less "reporting" and more "poetry"."

In light of that, I wanted to share a few quotes and a book that many of you have probably read, but for those who haven't, I recommend it as a 'must read'.

The book is "Art & fear", 'Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING', by David Bayles and Ted Orland. They call it an Artists Survival Guide, and it asks questions like these....

-What is your art really about?

-Where is it going?

-What stands in the way of getting it there?

This is part of what they write in the intro-

"It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing Free Will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work"

Here's a sampling of some of their words to the! ;-)

"In large measure becoming an artist constists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive."

"Making art provides uncomfortably accurate feedback about the gap that inevitaly exists between what you intended to do, and what you did. In fact, if artmaking did not tell you (the maker) so enormously much about yourself, then making art that matters to you would be impossible."

"...The best you can do is make art you care about-and lot's of it!"

"...the first few brushstrokes to the blank canvas satisfy the requirements of many possible paintings, while the last few fit only that painting-they could go nowhere else."

"A finished piece is, in effect, a test of correspondence between imagination and execution."

From Ben Shahn, "The painter who stands before an empty canvas must think in terms of paint." :)

"Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your 'best' work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your 'own' work."

On talent-
"By definition, 'whatever' you have is exactly what you need to produce your best work. There is probably no clearer waste of psychic energy than worrying about how much talent you have-and probably no worry more common. This is true even among artists of considerable accomplishment."

*Have you ordered the book yet??????*

"What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece."

On finding your work-
"If, indeed, for any given time only a certain sort of work resonates with life, then that is the work you need to be doing in that moment. If you try to do some other work, you will miss your moment." (That is pretty heavy if you think about it. Not sure how to know that, but it makes sense.)


Okay... enough of my tease. There are a few books that we as artists need to have on the shelf. 'The Art Spirit' by R. Henri, 'Hawthorne on Painting', to name a couple of books for thought, and these two. That's my 2cents.

This is a great $10.00 book of only about 120 pages. There is a companion book written by Ted Orland "The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World", which I just got and have not read yet.

Working in the studio... a color study for larger painting.

Oil-8x10 © Marc R. Hanson

This is a color study for a larger painting that I am just beginning. I am trying to go into an emotional place rather than a descriptive place with this one. We'll see what happens in the translation from this small color comp to the larger painting. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Book!

This is exciting! I've just published a new book of paintings that I've done. Please click on the image for a preview.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

'November Flurries Coming' - oil on linen - 16x20 © Marc R. Hanson '08

'Raking Light' - oil on linen - 10x25 © Marc R. Hanson '08

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day to Night

I'm going back in time a little bit, but I am in the studio working on longer term paintings. So to stay a little active with some posting here, I thought that I'd let a little 'kitty' out of the bag concerning nocturnes and the way I paint them. There is going directly to the source and painting from life, a requirement IMHO, and then there's using that experience to draw on to do work in the studio.

This isn't really a secret. Artists like Whistler, Maxfield Parrish, Howard Pyle, NC Wyeth, Harold VonSchmidt, Frederic Remington, Frank Tenney Johnson, Tom Lovell, Doug Dawson, and a myriad of other painters and illustrators from the past and in present have painted nocturnes from inside during the daylight hours. Most if not all of them had spent a lot of time in the saddle of a horse, or out observing what happens visually at night, in order to be able to render the effect of the 'lack' of light on the subject that they wanted to paint.

As a side note of interest... At night the rods ( about 120 million, the light and dark receptors ) in our retina take over from the cones ( 6 to 7 million, our color receptors). This is the reason that as it darkens our ability to sense color diminishes. Many scientists think that this makes evolutionary sense. At night is when the predators are out. In our early development as humans, it was very important to be able to see those critters, who were out there to eat us, in order to have a chance for survival. Seeing movement was critical, color not as much so.

Harold VonSchmidt, for instance, painted many, many illustrations and easel paintings of the old west, stampeding horses and cows, the cavalry and their scouts, and much more, at night with a very limited palette of either a blue or green dominant color scheme. For many of his paintings he used a palette of Ivory black, Viridian and Alizarin Crimson. Prussian blue and black with burnt sienna is another popular palette for nocturnes. These are very effective generic palettes for nocturnes due to our inablility to see much color at night.

'Cold Riding' - oil - 30x50 - 1954 Harold Von Schmidt

Painting only in the studio with a generic 'nocturne palette', without the experience of painting from life at night, however, presents the painter with the dangerous possibility of becoming 'formulaic' with the subject. Back when Remington was painting there was often a palette for nocturnes referred to as the 'Frank Tenney Johnson' palette because he had so perfected the luminance seen in the night sky. For an illustrator, that's fine. Their job is to communicate the idea of their client to an audience not necessarily of their choice. It's completely possible to make up a situation on canvas in the studio. To do that takes the right amount of skill, and they are skilled.

For a painter who is trying to paint a response to what they're observing in an honest, objective way, I believe that it's imperative that the work is based on direct 'on the spot' observation. Once that you've understood the principles of a particular lighting situation it is possible to use studies from previous, different experiences to make a complete and meaningful statement.

Just take a look at the quality of work that Frederic Remington did with nocturnes. He didn't stand outside painting a wolf staring at him in the moonlight. Yet it's totally believable as an image. And I doubt that the native Americans setting the prairie fire would have thought it a good idea to stand there and allow an artist to set up the easel either. He did use a new tool, flash photography, to capture some models and nocturnal reference. And he did do small sketches from life as a base for his reference.

'Moonlight, Wolf' 1909 Frederic Remington

'The Grassfire' (Backfiring) 1908 Frederic Remington

I've been enjoying painting the nocturnes for a few years now, both from life and in the studio from both life studies and from photo references. Another thing that I do and want to share with you, is to take daytime studies and convert them to nocturnes. I've actually done this a number of times and am going to show you a few here. This first image is my reference for the painting below it. I posted this same image in the recent post about the nocturne article.

'Palmetto Island Park' - oil field study, 9x12 © Marc R. Hanson '06

'Palmetto Island by Night' - oil - 16x20 © Marc R. Hanson '08

Another example are these two images. First one is a little field study painted a couple of years ago in spring. I used it as the only reference for the painting below it called 'Spring Night Light'. I'd been painting some nocturnes from life at this point and felt comfortable with translating day into night.

'Spring Painting' - oil - 10x8 © Marc R. Hanson '06

'Spring Night Light' - oil, 20x16 © Marc R. Hanson '06

In the following images I took the idea of this translating a little further and am showing a couple of examples. In both of these cases the only reference was photographic.

The point of all of this is that what we do as artists is make 'paintings', not duplicates of nature. I find this kind of challenge to be one that gets my creative juices flowing. From the source, to the reference photo or sketch, to the finished painting, the similarities between the two change. I move things, shrink, enlarge, emphasize, de-emphasize and employ any number of other alterations to make 'my' point. To me this is where the creativity in my work lies.

'Full Moon Barn' - oil 14x18 © Marc R. Hanson '06

Reference photo

'Winter Solstice Night' - oil - 20x24 © Marc R. Hanson '06

Photo reference

Monday, November 17, 2008

Article -"Paint Evocative Nocturnes", by Michael Chesley Johnson

'Palmetto Island by Night' - oil - 16x20 © Marc R. Hanson '08

I want to tell you about an online article in The Artist Magazine, 'Painting Evocative Nocturnes' written by artist/writer, Michael Chesley Johnson. The feature is only in the online magazine, the title above links to it. He interviewed four of us who paint nocturnes fairly often, Douglas Morgan of California, Cody DeLong of Arizona, Yours truly and Brian Stewart, also of Minnesota.

It's a very good article and worth the jog over there to see what we all talked about. Thank you Michael.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The sun did come out...briefly... today.

'November Coming' - gouache on paper - 4.5x6.5 © Marc R. Hanson '08

So I grabbed the gouache bag and truck and painted one little study. It became too dark to try for two, too bad. I used this medium because I am just not ready to put on the cold weather clothes just yet. Sitting in the truck with a radio, coffee and heat on the feet, is where I was today.
I started doing this in the car last winter and then didn't keep it up. It's a method of last resort, a way to keep painting when you don't feel like being in the elements. I need to remind myself to stay with this... because it's fun! ;)

Where's the sun!?

'Sun Block' - oil on linen - 8x10

We haven't seen it for awhile now. That's just an excuse to post a little painting that I did a few years ago called 'Sun Block'. Wish I needed some right now.

This was a painting that was a bit of an experiment for me. I had been on the Upper Mississippi River painting a 24x30 plein air piece for an upcoming show that was opened in 2005. I had some new lead white paint and some of a very nice double lead primed linen called RIX, a Frederix product. My idea was to paint some of the drama I had been witnessing while painting the 24x30 over the period of a couple of long days out. But I wanted that old, turn of the (20th)century look, the 'sublime' idea of the Hudson River school painters. So I limited my palette to Alizarin Crimson, Transparent Oxide Red, Cad Yellow Deep (Rembrandt), Ultramarine Deep (Rembrandt) and Great White Flake White (Studio Products, Cenninni), an absolutely wonderful flake white to work with. The entire painting was kept transparent as long as possible ( photo taken back when my camera and my digital photo taking knowledge was minimal at best so the transparency doesn't show well here) with only the lights, using a heavy application of the flake white, being opaque. It became a very emotional painting for me and led to several other pieces that ended up in the show. They all sold. :) A very sweet lady who worked at the art school where I was doing some teaching and the show was held, purchased this one. She cried, it affected her that way. It is so cool that we are able to bring about that kind of emotion in people. I've made people cry, believe me, but to make them cry because they're affected by what you've done in a positive way, not in a negative way (high school coaches...) cannot be measured on the 'I'm lucky' scales.
So that's my morning mix of 'procrastination' prose. :)

Friday, November 14, 2008


Let's see if I get this 'tagged' thing right...? First, Sharon Wright did the deed, so here she is! First obligation fulfilled.
Second obligation...7 unusual things about myself. Hmmmmmm.... let's try this out. I'll start with the early years.

1- I was born in a place called 'Oxnard', at Port Hueneme (correction....not a Seal base, a Sea Bee station. I was only 0 yrs old then. Can't be expected to remember everything). How's that for a start to life. Following that at six weeks old, I was moved to Fairbanks, AK via ferry and the AlCan highway most of which was gravel at the was cold, I remember that! ;-)

2- I was part of the first Boy Scout troop to achieve the '50 miler' badge on skis while living in Norway. At the same time, our troop leaders (some ex British paratroopers), took us over a mountain range that had not been traversed before... in the middle of a raging blizzard. I don't think that they knew it was there, frankly.

3- While at summer camp in Norway, the camp of Olaf Reed Olsen (a Norwegian undergroud hero from WWll), I sank two miles off shore in a small sailboat during a raging storm. The boat was overloaded with boys and we could not be picked up by boat so had to swim to shore. We also learned to like fish balls, and a combination of sardines/gjeitost (goat cheese)/ and raspberry jam on flatbrød. Hunger will make you do strange things. I'm lucky to be here to write this now!

4- My Little League baseball team from Oslo, Norway took 2nd place in the European Little League Allstar Playoffs. Rota, Spain beat us and got to make the trip to Williamsport, PA to play in the Little League Allstar World Series Championships. We were very, very sad about that. I only regained my love for Spain after discovering J. Sorolla's art. I love Spain now!

5- I went to 3 high schools, college and art school in California and then reverse migrated to Minnesota because I like snow. Now you know I'm 'unusual'. At one point I had to decide, continue to make a life teaching skiing in California ( I had been doing that in the Sierra's since high school), or leave that and go to art school. I am fortunate to have chosen art school. It's become my life.

6- I'm very disciplined. There are many things that could possibly distract me if I'm not careful. I'll list a few of the things that I like but 'don't do' any more very often, in order to stay on track as an artist. I am a licensed private pilot with an instrument rating with a partially built 200 kt aluminum airplane that I'm building (stored in my house), am building a 12 foot wooden flat bottom rowing skiff for painting out of, I sail, shoot a traditional wooden bow ( have started a couple of 'self bows' from hickory) and homemade cedar arrows, like to fly fish and tie flies, hunt, ski of course, build and fly RC aircraft, copper sculpture, silver work and enameling, cooking, and about 50 other distractible activities that I find interesting.

7- I painted birds for 25 years!

I'll list the 7 tagged people when I find them...soon....

Here they are. Fine painters and teachers... my two requirements for the list.

1-Kami Polzin:) Inspirational person, teacher and painter! :)

2-Anne Kullaf Great teaching blog!

3-Michael Chesley JohnsonWriter, painter, teacher!

4-Marc DalessioWow! Just discovered Marc's work. Teaches, paints and knows materials.

5-Frank GardnerYeah I know, everyone already knows Frank! :) But I like his work, he teaches and if I could only get a teeny weeny little bit of his traffic flow (I'd have NO free time left)!

6-Xiangyuan JiePoetic painter, but bold.

7-Jennifer McChristianHer work speaks for itself, and she teaches!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wabi Sabi-"Nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect."

'Earth, Wind and Fire' - A painting I did a few years back, maybe 6 or 7 years back, that I thought would be a good illustration for this blog post of mine. It's a 30x40 oil on linen.

"Wabi-sabi is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things." (Juniper, Andrew. Wabi-sabi: the Japanese Art of Impermanence. Boston: Tuttle, 2003)

I might be getting off track here in terms of a blog about posting paintings. But is it? I need to get out more because I've only discovered this philosophy now. I've read the The Tao Te Ching (also called "The Tao", by Lao Tzu, have read a little about Buddhism but must not have read enough to know about 'wabi sabi'. But I recognize the universality of it's presence in the other writings and way of life.

To be honest, I was reading an article in the magazine, 'Wooden Boats' ( I'm building a little one and 'nothing is finished' applies here! ) about an artist who paints pretty contemporary looking paintings of old traditional wooden boat structures.

The writer said that the paintings and subject matter acknowledged 'wabi sabi' and went on to say that it referred to the Japanese aesthetic that "nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect".

That really peaked my interest because my interests are most often in things and activities that are made by hand, that are old and have some sort of aesthetic that transends the 'glitzy' part of our society. I am an archer and shoot a wooden flat bow, make my own arrows, am building a wooden boat, tie my own flies for fishing, and in general appreciate those things in our world that look to most people (other than artists in many cases) like they should be torn down and rebuilt. I am typing this on an iMac, not sending smoke signals, so there is compromise of course.

When I'm out painting, I don't stop at the metal pole barns to paint, or the asphalt parking lots and new construction, by choice. I am not a fan of painting industrial things either. They do not make me feel comfortable. I'm a painter who is trying to pass along my deep seeded love and joy in the subjects that I choose to paint to others, and most of those subjects seem to be either a little out of the way corner that usually is overgrown and "unnoticed" by many! It's just my choice. I am not slamming anyone who would rather paint glass and steel skyscapers, or the grand subjects such as mountain peaks and majestic waterfalls. I've done that too, a little bit, but not with the same conviction and interest that I've found along the shore of the local swampy little pond. It's just that I'd rather find a 90 year old shed that is about to fall over in the next 5 mph wind to paint. I've always been like this. Reading about 'wabi sabi' is causing me to reflect on what it is I paint and why in a very positive way.

I'm constantly amazed by the discovery of ideas that have been here for so long that every one, but me, knows about it. I googled 'wabi sabi' and quickly realized that there are wabi sabi blogs, books (here's one that I'm going to get and read-Koren, Leonard. Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 1994), art, photographs and on and on. I never did investigate 'feng shue' but probably should have.

"We must teach ourselves to see the beauty of the ugly, to see the beauty of the commonplace. It is so much better to make much out of little than to make little out of much-better to make a big thing out of a little subject than to make a little thing out of a big one. " (Hawthorne, J.C. Hawthorne On Painting. Dover Publications, 1960)

Charles Hawthorne was a painter and teacher who understood this philosophy either consciously or by instinct. Many of us respect what he had to tell us through this book published by his daughter. It's full of the same sort of consciousness for painters and is also worth reading.

As artists we are constantly aware that we are a little different than a lot of the other people around us if simply by the nature of what and how we do what we do. Now it's comforting to know that we have a connection to humanity that the ancient cultures have recognized and practiced for eons.

Am I the only one who didn't get the memo on this? ;-)

"Wabi-sabi, as a tool for contemplation and a philosophy of life, may now have an unforeseen relevance as an antidote to the rampant unraveling of the very social fabric which has held [us] together for so long. Its tenets of modesty and simplicity encourage a disciplined unity while discouraging overindulgence in the physical world. It gently promotes a life of quiet contemplation and a gentle aesthetic principle that underscores a meditative approach. Wabi-sabi demotes the role of the intellect and promotes an intuitive feel for life where relationships between people and their environments should be harmonious. By embodying the spirit to remind itself of its own mortality, it can elevate the quality of human life in a world that is fast losing its spirituality." (Juniper, Andrew. Wabi-sabi: the Japanese Art of Impermanence. Boston: Tuttle, 2003)