For the past couple of weeks, I have been debating about which painting surface is best for me to paint with. I have been using canvas boards forever. They are light and durable and the best part is that they even hold up in a torrential downpour, (as experienced at Easton one time). Linen boards are very nice too!, but the cost is nearly triple the amount. They have a finer tooth to the surface than common canvas and seem to be the choice for most painters. And then there is a gessoed board of Masonite otherwise known as MDF. Super slick surface, especially if you buy it pre-primed. The nice thing I like about MDF is that you can mount linen or canvas to it with an adhesive liike Mighty Muck, (which is non acidic). I do like prepping my boards on these. The surface is really good, but it does take some time. I tried primed paper or paper that handles oil has been for me the most disappointing experience. The worst experience however was using a cradle board birchwood surface with pine substrate. Most of them are fine and great, but having a defect that I thought I could sand and fix before painting over turned out to be a disaster. Should have returned it as soon as I discovered it, but I didn’t and painted something I really liked that I can’t sell. EVER. Best cradleboard that I have experienced to day is going to HomeDepot, buying a interior door blank, (a door with no holes or hinge indentions). Cut it to your preferred size and cut a 1.5 inch wood to fill in the side you cut. Glue it with Tightbond III Wood Glue. So far, it is light, sturdy and no warping or flexing. Best of all is that it’s already pre-primed all over and you just need to sand and gesso your painting surface and the side you filled in with the 1.5 wood. If anyone is interested, I can post a video about what I’ve done to make them.
I know what you’re thinking, “Here goes another rant about the horrible social media that rots people’s minds and sells your soul”. Well fear not my friends, this is not this blog. I have experienced a great sense of community with FaceBook and Instagram. The ability to be exposed to artists that I admire and discover new artists has been very rewarding. However, I do feel a disconnect that in such environments, the ability to recount my experiences in long form is lost. I won’t even begin to get into the can of worms that is privacy and ownership with social media. So, I wanted to experiment and go back to my blog. To tell my stories, share my work without fear of judgement from my peers. Yes, I do feel that pressure to live up to everyone else’s expectations, even if it is not really there and nobody gives damn about what I write or post. So here is to new beginnings and experiments. Are you excited as I am about the unknown? Let’s begin...
Today, I had another request to paint a portrait from a photo. These are such delicate decisions. Most photos people show me are washed out old photographs of long lost loved ones. The photo is more of a placeholder for their memory which fills in the gaps of missing details. Since I don’t possess the same memories, the photo provides little if any details of how to handle the portrait. What they are hoping is that I can read their mind and magically pull the visions from their memories and produce what they remember of the loved one. Sadly, I can’t do this. More often than not, I politely turn the job down and explain the photo is lacking necessary visual information needed to work from. I feel for them and their longing to reconnect to those memories. However, sometimes, there are photos that I can work from. The technology of better cameras in smart phones helps me immensely when accepting new commissions. And of course, good contrast light doesn’t hurt either. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here are two photos that will help illustrate my point. I hope.
A photo of my dear mum. Notice the washed out details? She literally could be any young girl from that baby boomer era. Not a good photo to work from.
A photo of my Pops. See the details and the contour of the face from the shadows? This kind of photograph makes an excellent reference for a portrait.
Hi art buddies, I’m just going to let the photo do the talking here. Same painting, same lighting, but the one on the left shot with RAW took a lot less editing. Not to mention is much closer to the actual painting. Somehow I changed my camera settings to JPG from RAW and couldn’t figure out why the last batch of paintings were off and took much more time to edit, until I looked the file format. Duh! DON’T SHOOT YOUR PAINTINGS AS JPEG/JPG.
I had done a digital painting that I was really happy with, but I knew that is could be better in oil. My first pass in oil was not close to the digital, but I was able to work out the mechanics of the figure, especially the tilted shoulders. Using the model photo and my digital painting as my two sources of reference, I finished this yesterday rather quickly. Was it because I had a digital painting to keep me on course with staying fresh and spontaneous? I would think so. As I photographed it, I noticed three things that needed fixing and I literally spent the early morning going from computer to easel and back to camera to get things right. Funny how one tiny stroke placed just right can make all the difference in the world. Wouldn’t you agree? I like the oil painting, what do you think? Digital or Oil?
If you are one of my close friends, you know that I am very competition with myself and my art. I am a painter. So when someone doesn’t ‘get’ my work, I can at times get frustrated. Not so much as I used to. The first rejection I ever got was from a student show. It had me so mad I couldn’t see straight. I was livid, but looking back on it now, it was hilarious to expect them to accept a ‘wet’ painting than I just finished, because I had procrastinated until the last two days. It was my first oil painting so that goes without saying, I had no idea what I was doing. It was a healthy thing to experience and to learn a little humility. After all, my family and friends had been telling me for years I was “GREAT!”. So why couldn’t the jury see it? The cold hard fact was that I was NOT VERY GOOD. We need to grow on encouragement from our friends and loved ones. My recent rejection was to an exhibition of work known for being so far away from what I do that if I did get accepted it would have been an anomaly all on it’s own. Like Han Solo said, “Never tell me the odds!”. Don’t let the odds keep you from entering your work if you want to. That word “want” is important. Submit if you think you want your work in an event. This was a local museum and I really loved one of their most popular recent exhibitions, so I thought, “Fuck it, let’s enter.”. I had no reservations that I would be an outlier if chosen, so when I didn’t get in, I laughed at myself. Rejection is good for growth. It is necessary, so relish it, laugh at it, and drown your frustrations with your favorite beverage. However, ask yourself, was it your best work? If it is at this current time, shake it off and move on. If deep in your heart you know it wasn’t, then begin to ask yourself what you need to do to get your art to that level. Easy said than done, but if you can honestly look inward to see your own deficits as a painter, then the journey to becoming a better painter is a little clearer. Competition is healthy, even in art. It helps push you beyond your comfort zone and boundaries. I know it has helped me grow as a painter tremendously, but I have to laugh off rejection and so should you. It’s ok to be a sore loser at times. Get mad, get upset. Yell and scream. Give the art establishment a big “FUCK YOU!”. Shake it out of your system and move on to becoming a better painter. Because you can’t make great work from loathing and regret. It’s toxic and it will eat at your soul.
A new year, a new outlook! I’m starting the new year recovering from foot surgery. It’s been a painful long two years of walking and standing. It sucks, but I am looking forward to moving forward to getting better and moving on with my work. What happened to my foot? Well, the short story is I had plantar fasciitis. I managed in pain for a year spending a lots of money of specialized shoes, inserts, boots, splints etc before I got a cortisone shot. Things got better, or so they seemed. After slowly building incorporating excercise back into my life, I started to notice that pain started to evolve on the top and side of my foot. THREE DOCTORS LATER, various X-rays, CAT Scan and an MRI, I was told that I had three torn tendons. It would require surgery and I now here I am, recuperating during the holidays not being able to drive and limited hobbling around. The good news is I and recovering and I am looking forward to running and being a dad who can play with his kids at the beach. My buddies Mark and Mike were super awesome to help bring me to last nights Norfolk Drawing Group for painting night. It felt good to be out of the house! First painting of 2019. “Anastasia” 12x16 oil on canvas.
“Night Beckons the Fisherman” 16x20 oil on canvas. Was an awesome night listening to Led Zeppelin and talking to the occasional tourist. Met a group of students from Mongolia who were nice enough to watch my gear while I went to my truck. When I came back they were taking pics of themselves posing behind the easel! Had a fun time and was really happy with the results of the painting.
I have to say that with creating new brushes using Procreate has allowed me to bring my digital painting closer in line with my traditional oil painting. All of the standard brushes are nice, but going beyond those and customizing and creating new brushes has really allowed my work to evolve in new and exciting ways. That said, I am happy to say that my new digital paintings will be available to purchase very soon. Below are a few that I hope you will enjoy with some time-lapse videos to see the a little into the creative process.
Here are the new paintings featured in my solo exhibition. Contract me if you are interested in purchasing one. Show runs until the end of June 2018.
Sandler Center For The Performing Arts Gallery
Opening Reception April 18th 6-8PM
2nd & 3rd Floor
201 Market Street
Free & Open To The Public
As promised, I’m finally having a moment to write down the events related to my show for you to read. The Pavilion I gallery solo exhibition was my largest show to date and final tally was 80 paintings! And I was worried about hitting 40 when I first accepted, funny right? Setting up was a real roller coaster of emotions. First obstacle was finishing a couple of large paintings that I wanted to get in for the show. But the catch on the large one was I using a new paint that I was not familiar with. Even after a month of sitting on the easel, the damn paint wasn’t drying. Not even close! It felt as wet as the day I laid it on the canvas. Framing was also stressful, thanks to a snow storm and a cold freeze that prevented the snow and ice from melting away. That meant that FEDEX delayed my delivery by several days. After three days of framing and staying up late with only two or three hours of sleep. Finally I get done and load up 78 (which really turns out to be 79 because I forgot one) into the truck. Can you say stressed out? Here I am with a truck loaded up, going down the freeway praying I don’t get hit by another car! Spending most of the day loading and unloading my truck and placing paintings across 6 floors, I finally left to go home.
The next day I get a text from the gallery coordinator and she is asking if I have removed a painting. I text back “NOPE” and then called her. “Slave I” from the 31 day challenge last year was swiped right off the wall after it was hung an hour early! My immediate thoughts are that this has to be a StarWars Uber fan as the painting didn’t even have a title card posted yet! After a few minutes of thought I decided to post on FB. I mean, what the hell do I have to loose? Right?
What happens is an immediate avalanche of shares on FB to my amazement. Friends have even shared on StarWars fan sites and message boards. Thursday comes and I am in need of a painting to replace the stolen one. I’m still pissed about the stolen painting. Then an idea hits me as I’m talking to my friend Sam and that night after everything else is done, I begin painting Boba Fett. If you’re a fan of StarWars, you know that replacing a painting of Boba Fett’s "Slave I” with a painting of Boba Fett is significant. After all, Fett is a bounty hunter in the movies. Staying up till 4am to finish, I got to sign and titled the painting “Run & Hide Scum, I WILL FIND YOU!”. A clear message to the thief in the case he frequents the building. Next morning, I have to run and buy a frame for the new Fett painting. Then go attach labels to the work hanging at the gallery. Seventy-nine labels across six floors is a lot of work.
Somewhere in between that, I get a call from somebody who says their employee has my painting. He asked where I am and said that he will have the thief deliver the painting back to me. I told him that I was at the place where the painting was stolen at. He says good and the thief will be there in 20 minutes. Let me tell you it was a long 20 minutes! All I could think about was making sure I didn’t miss him walking in. Luckily the building superintendent showed up minutes before the thief did. As the culprit walked in, he tried to bolt for the elevators before I stopped him and told him to turn around. I pulled my camera out and shot photos of him directly holding my painting. There he was, standing with the stolen painting, the guy that had called caused me so much stress the past few days. I asked him why he stole it. I asked him why he didn’t contact me with the website address printed on the back. I told him if he wanted the paining so bad, I would’ve gladly worked out a payment plan for him so that he could own it. He just said that he was sorry and he made a mistake. He said he knew it was wrong the minute he stole it. I asked him “If you knew it was a mistake why didn’t you reach back out to me and tell me so?”. I told him I didn’t think he was that sorry because he waited until he was caught. I proceeded to chew him out and then demanded that he go upstairs and look at the replacement painting. As we were in the elevator I asked if he thought his parents would be ashamed if they knew what he had done. He replied, “Yes”. I asked him how old he was and he said, “23”. Then I asked him, “You do know this was a felony right?”. He looked down and sighed. We got to the floor and I made him walk up to the paining and look at it. There was Boba Fett hanging on the wall. I then told him to look at the title of the painting there on the small label and read the following “Run & Hide Scum, I WILL FIND YOU!” title. The thief‘s head dropped down. His face turned sour like someone who’s just been punk’d on TV. I told him I thought he would be back and painted this just for him in case he just happened by again. After some more of me chewing him out, I told him to leave and sort the rest of his day out. I would later learn that he was fired after returning to work. After finally getting all of my labels done and deciding to hang the returned stolen painting below the replacement, I headed home to shower and change for the show.
The evening came and managed to return back just in time for the exhibition to start. After everything was said and done the opening reception was a blast. I did my best to try and talk to everyone and manage sales of paintings. Best of all, was knowing I had made it through the week and I could relax for a day.
Sunday I remembered that I needed all new work for my next solo exhibition in mid March. I’m writing this now as I know it will be awhile before I surface and come back up for air to post another blog. Now back to the easel with my largest painting to date finished and drying with many more left to paint!
I have spent a great deal of time and thought on trying to convey my thoughts on the digital art form as a medium on equal level to traditional media. But after multiple writing and rewrites, I have come to the simple conclusion that perception of this medium may never change without thoughtful discussion and dialogue. Yes, traditional media is an original work of art; however, does it demand a higher price? Due to it's exclusivity, yes, I believe so. But creating digital art is a direct equal to painting. The same thought process and demanding mental awareness occurs. Being in the zone in front of the canvas with brush is the same as me holding a tablet and stylus. The exact same. Sure, there are apps that claim to emulate oils, watercolor, pen and ink, but they are invariably different from the real media they are trying to copy. The tools that the app developers make are unique unto themselves.
Why does digital art have a stigma? It's likely because of the art published that was traced, or painted over in some program like Photoshop. Apps that make photos mimic paintings through programmed filters are very popular. It's easy to see why artists feel threatened by this. I totally understand why some collectors or even artist themselves don’t want anything that can be mass produced. Rather they desire something that is handcrafted, one of a kind. After all, a digital drawing can be mass produced with ease. But let me argue this point, fine art has been reproduced for a long time. So what’s different with digital art? If drawn and rendered by the artist, is it not art to be appreciated and admired? Some artist go the route of only reproducing limited prints or even limit it to one digital art print. What's the difference between that and a clay sculpture made from a cast?
Will the digital art form ever rise to the level of traditional methods such as oil, watercolor and pastel? There are many artists that use the digital medium. Is it because it's ability to reproduce an exact copy each and every time? Andy Warhol made reproductions and used the argument that with each pass, the image itself changed, making it a unique piece. Thomas Kincaid made mass reproductions of his work with people embellishing paint on the print to make them individualized. I won't make any other comparisons to these artists, but you get my point, slight alterations can make anything "unique".
Over the past year, I have been approached by people wanting to purchase the digital art I've created. Some people are unaware that the artwork is digitally made. I truly believe that my drawing, color, design, and composition have been improved by digital painting. I have been perplexed with how to reproduce it in a way that is ready to hang. It is been quite frustrating to know that prints of my traditional paintings purchased by friends are still boxed up, unframed years later. I myself am guilty of this and know that the cost of a frame can be at times more than the cost of the print. There are services for printing digital art ready to hang with out the fuss of going to a framer. I look forward with seeing how the results pan out.
Let's look at the benefits of digital painting. I have found an outlet to create visual comps for ideas to paint and flesh them out. With the assist of a television to project them on, I can see if they will work as a large scale painting. Seriously, how cool is this? For oil paintings that I personally am stuck on, digital painting over a photo allows me to work out ideas to complete the painting and solve problems. Plein air digital painting is even being offered now by artists that work professionally in movie and gaming industry. The digital art form is a tool and medium unto itself and deserves equal respect for those that choose to create work in it.
Ever been out painting and forgotten to bring your brushes or paints? Leaving home without the critical gear to paint can be challenging or even disastrous. With the right preparations, you can be ready to paint at any given moment you want without the fear of leaving gear behind.
MY SOLO EXHIBITION RECEPTION! I'm really excited and hope to see you there!
January 1st I joined a 31 daily painting challenge hosted by Strada Easel. I wanted to jumpstart my painting and had heard of this challenge last year. The rules are paint from life (no photos) everyday. It was an extremely challenging process to figure out a subject to paint. Some paintings were started and abandoned due to time or work, which meant if it was plein air, I had to start all over again that evening. During this challenge I learned that I really should embrace still life subjects more as they are a great way to study light, composition and values when I can't be outside painting plein air. Most of the paintings were done in an hour and half to two hour range. After getting home from work, cooking and getting the kids to bed it usually was 10pm. Some of the paintings I wouldn't considered finished paintings but astute life studies. Not all of them are successful, but the constant painting everyday has greatly improved my confidence and helped me rely more on intuition an instinct. If you have not considered this challenge, I would highly recommend you should if you are looking to improve upon your painting skills. Below are the paintings in chronological order. For those that followed me on Facebook and Instagram, thank you for your daily support and encouragement! Thanks to Bryan Mark Taylor for hosting this challenge, I really enjoyed the process and challenge of daily painting.
I’ve really been enjoying using just the prime colors of Blue Ultramarine, Alizarine Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Light and Permalba White. In using this, I find that I have don’t have to rely on using a mother color or mud to help harmonize the colors used in the painting. However, the real challenge is to get reds to really pop as I would get using a Cadmium Red. I’ve also noticed when needing a dap of yellow when mixing darker tones, if I use too much yellow, the results are muddy and I have to start over. It also means I rely heavily on white throughout all my lighter tones of color. Either way, I am having a lot of fun painting with this limited color scheme. It will be interesting how my nocturne paintings comes out using this as well. Stay tuned!
I'm excited to announce that I have updated my store front and have new work up available for sale! To celebrate the kick off, I am discounting all available work 20% thru the end of August. Be sure to join the mailing list at the bottom of the site for exclusive notification of new works too!
Discount Promo Code: MI84QXP2016-20
Good thru August 31st, 2016
I don't know about you, but I really get stoked on the freedom to go out and drive looking for a spot to paint. The excitement of discovery and seeing something in the moment. I don't know how else to describe it except that it fits the surfer in me looking for waves to ride. Something is out there, I just need to wait a let it come to me naturally. Both of these paintings are typical of being open to my surroundings and when the time is right, I set up and get painting. Painting smaller and being more mobile allows for instantaneous decisions like trying to paint a setting sun over the harbor. Forcing a spot to work for you and your painting usually makes for a bad painting and it turns painting into a chore. It should be a passion. Driven and determined to lock down with paint on canvas the visual emotions laid out before us. I'm not interested in capturing exactly what I see, but rather how I feel about the moment and the surroundings I find myself in.
I am pleased to announce I will be teaching a two day plein air workshop on Rock Island, Wisconsin. July 6th & 7th
"Join us as we learn the basics in painting outdoors using oils with Doug Clarke. In a two day workshop, Doug shares his knowledge on how to observe the outdoors and give feeling and life to complete your paintings. Set within the rustic landscape of Rock Island State Park off the tip of Washington Island, students will have the opportunity to capture unique lake views and historic structures.
Doug Clarke is an award winning Plein Air and Studio painter based out of Virginia Beach. He works in oils creating plein air and studio paintings. A painter of "en plein air", Doug is known for capturing the vanishing landscapes of Southeastern Virginia.
Graduating Magna Cum Laude from Virginia Commonwealth University, Doug's work has evolved from commercial to fine art. In pursuit of mastering his craft, Doug participates in local and national plein air events.
Awards include 1st place at Plein Air 757, Williamsburg Plein Air and Plein Air Mount Lebanon competitions. Doug is a three time winner of the Historic Fort Monroe Plein Air Exhibition. His works have found a home in local and international collections. Doug is represented by Harbor Gallery, Ellen Moore Gallery and the Richard Stravitz Gallery."
Materials list and syllabus available on artist site:
So it's been a week and I wanted to let you know what I've been up to this past few days. With my new goal, I’ve been thinking about what direction to go with my painting. So far here’s the list.
- Painting bigger studio works, smaller plein air and still life.
- Marketing and promoting better
- Exploring avenues in which to sell and reach more collectors
If you read my previous blog entry, I’m setting myself on the projected path to painting full time. It’s something I feel I’m ready to take on. With that said, it will take a lot of time management skills on my part. So I started researching what are good resources to become better at managing my time. For those that know me, if you had to describe a characteristic about me, I’m guessing you would say that I look tired. It usually is followed with I drink lots of coffee. It’s true I’m always tired, staying up late to paint is tough, but I recognize that I need to manage my time better so that I can squeeze in more time to sleep.
One thing I have adopted early on is bringing my lunch to work so I can eat and sleep in my truck. It helps that I park in a garage, so finding a dark spot to park in is easy. I tune in to an iPhone app called Nosili that allows me to create custom nature sounds to provide a white noise to block out the car alarms, delivery trucks and other distractions one would hear in a parking garage. I try to stick to a routine in the car by listening to NPR instead of being on my iPhone while I eat and then switch to Noisli and power nap for 20min. Believe it or not, I can hit R.E.M. in this amount of time. This leaves me refreshed and ready for the rest of the day. I also have a second canister of coffee in the truck to drink when I wake up too.
As for managing my time more efficiently, I’ve done my research and the first book recommended to read is “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. The reviews are really good, so I’m hoping that I can get some groundwork laid to be more productive with my painting.
So, I’ll leave you with my photo dump of past things from last week.