Tag Archives: perspective

Something Else Happens

something else
People often ask me about my work methods, how I get the paint to do certain things. I just smile and admit that I really have no idea. I start off with a plan every time and I try to follow it, but just as Picasso says “then it becomes something else.”

For many years I fought this phenomenon. But it always happened. The thing is, I usually ended up with a painting that I liked, but I was somehow not proud of it. I guess because it had not turned out as I had originally intended. For me that felt like failure. How could I call what I had talent if I was not completely in control of it. But then as time went by and I looked at the body of my work I realized that I had developed a style and more importantly, I loved it. I found my voice. But truthfully I would have never developed my own style if the “something else” hadn’t continued to happen.

I guess making plans in painting and in life is pointless on some level. My life got so much easier as a painter and as a person when I began to embrace the fact that nothing was ever going to go exactly as intended. Don’t get me wrong, to this day I can’t begin a painting if I don’t have a plan in my head. It’s just that now am not troubled if the end result has little to do with that plan. The same is true in life. I think it is a pretty good idea to have a path – set some goals. But the end results will be much more about how you are able to recognize the opportunities that came your way and not overlooking something beautiful just because it was not exactly what you were planning on. That’s where the magic happens.

Think how boring your life would be if you only ever got what you expected. Remember this, any plan that you can make is always going to have limits, but that “something else” could be anything.

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Agree to Disagree

Please don’t agree with me – at least not right off the bat. I want to be argued with a little first. It’s really the only way I can be certain that someone is really listening to what I am trying to say. Complete agreement is the death of good conversation. I want you to explain to me why you hated the movie that I loved. I want to know if you actually think Donald Trump is an honest man. I want the chance to relate to you just what it is that excites me about a certain painting you find boring. The world is a wonderful place and I definitely have opinions and ideas about it (Vincent says I like to pontificate), but I value and get just as excited by hearing someone else’s thoughts as I do in spouting off mine.

Frank discussions, debate, and even arguing keep our minds agile, keep our relationships from getting stagnated, keep us from bottling up resentments, make us thoughtful citizens, and even help us to have peace of mind. I think if you can’t have a good knock down drag out fight with a friend, and get right over it, then that person probably was not that great of a friend to begin with. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my politics or my religion (I don’t like to talk about money because I simply find it a boring subject) so I am not going to take it personally if we don’t see eye to eye.

I had a woman unfriend me on Facebook the other day because I disagreed with her on the physical practicality of building a 2000 mile wall between the U.S. and Mexico. She thought that I had insulted her when really all I did was disagree with her. People… that is not the same thing.

So go ahead, challenge my ideas – maybe you are right and I will learn something. Or just maybe by we can both grow into better people.

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Art Advice: Stuck with it

stuckI have been interviewed several times regarding design advice over the past few weeks. When the interviews got published, they resulted in a few emails, so I thought I would use the blog to answer a few of them from time to time.

First up: the lady writes…

“I don’t know how I managed to do it but over the years I have ended up with a lot of art pieces that I don’t really like. Some of them are gifts from family and some I bought myself. But now I wonder what was I thinking? Some were quite expensive. Any suggestions?”

The lady who wrote this actually ended up hiring me to come have a look at her collection to see what could be done with it. But I hear this so much that I thought it worth a comment in case others might have the same issue.

First of all, art should not be burden to you. It should be enjoyed. So, if you don’t like it, either store it (properly) or get rid of it. But before you do, there are a few things you can try that could completely change your mind about those pieces. You might just learn to love them.

1. Grouping
Try hanging them in groupings with other art. Often paintings are not strong enough to carry a wall by themselves. But grouping it with other art, and using it as more of an accent piece can produce marvelous results.

2. Framing
I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen beautiful art made ugly by being placed in the wrong frame. And on the flip side, I have seen the right framing elevate what had seemed some fairly atrocious artwork into something very usable.

3. Doing the unexpected
Do you have a portrait of some old battle axe aunt that you don’t know what to do with? Hang her over the bar. Squeeze that large abstract into your tiny powder room. Or hang the period landscape with the gilded frame in the mud room. Interesting choices are what make interesting rooms.

If none of this works – by all means, don’t hang on to something that makes you unhappy.

Being cheap, being too polite, being impatient can take their toll over the years, landing you with a lot of stuff that you don’t want – not just art. I can help you out with the art, but husbands, ungrateful children, and bad haircuts you have to work out for yourself.

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Unyielding Good Taste

good-tasteEveryone thinks they have it. Most do not.

As an artist I try to be opened minded about the aesthetics of other people. I try to understand the look they are going for when someone paints their front door metallic gold, has a round bed, or places a life size reproduction of the Venus de Milo next to the BBQ grill in their backyard. Unfortunately, having an open mind can only go so far.

Yes, bad taste is out there in full force. In fact we are almost constantly being assaulted with it. We have an all-you-can-eat, gold lame, fake boob, strip mall, cubic zirconia, acid-washed kinda world pushed in our face most of the time.

However, to me, the only thing worse than bad taste is actually good taste – just in the wrong hands. It’s wonderful when someone can recognize the beauty of an eighteenth century French chateau. But trying to make your brand new house look exactly like one is just wrong. Isn’t there something slightly ridiculous about having a monogram on your rubber boots? Do antique Italian olive jars (no matter how beautiful they are) really belong on the porch of your Arts and Crafts style bungalow?

I find that often people who have no taste use the elements of what is accepted as “good taste” as a sort of mask to hide behind. Their outfits and homes always perfectly put together in the most utterly conventional way because they have no style of their own. To me this is the ultimate in boring. Am I the only one who thinks that a home that is merely pretty is almost ugly? Having a pretty home is easy. Buying a pretty dress is no problem. Finding a haircut that suits you and sticking with it for 5 or 10 years is not all that complicated. But I salute those folks who take chances and paint rooms the wrong color. The ladies and gentlemen who are not afraid to make a mistake with their wardrobe make me smile. And Bravo to you if every once in awhile your friends have to ask you “What in the hell did you do to your hair?”

For me a little bit of good taste goes a long way. Overdo it and you risk banality.

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What Do You See?

There are many things in life that we learn – some of those things are great truths and some are rather mundane. Not going to see an Adam Sandler movie is something I have learned that would be an example of a mundane truth. The greater truths can come to us in an epiphany or can take years to fully understand.

Well, as young artist I had an epiphany that has also taken me years to fully understand. One of the first times I sold a piece of art, the lady who bought it kept telling me about all the wonderful things she saw in it. But most of what she said she saw had nothing whatsoever to do with my intentions or ideas in making the painting. And that was when I had the epiphany – that the meaning of a piece of art is established by the viewer, not the artist.

This bothered me at first. I wanted to control what people saw in my work. I did not like the idea that someone saw a giant dog in the clouds of one of my paintings. I did not want to hear someone say “This landscape reminds me of a forgotten battlefield.” I wanted everyone to see only what I meant for them to see. I thought that if people didn’t get the exact emotion out of the painting that I was trying to put into it then I had failed somehow.

As I have grown older and my ego has grown smaller, I can now see how much better it is to let people bring their own experiences into things. Their fears, their happiness, their fondest memories… these things can make my paintings far more meaningful than I could ever hope make them on my own. Now, in fact, I love it when someone tells me that one of my paintings makes them think of some personal experience or emotion that has nothing to do with what I was thinking of when I made it. For me this is what gives the painting a life of it’s own, a life outside the limits of my experience.

I guess a good piece of art is like a mirror – in that every person who looks into it is going to see something different.

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