Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Technology Challenges

Illustrator Geisha, Adobe Illustrator 2011
It is really emotionally and physically healthy to learn new things.  Change, though it may be difficult is good for us.  One of the ways that we grow as artists is to learn to improve, step out of our comfort zone and learn, or at least try new things.  This year I learned to use a number of software programs that I had not used before.  As they say in TechEd.  Learn it this morning, teach it this afternoon, which I did. 

The problem is, that as soon as you learn something new in technology, it has changed and moved on.  It is obsolete as soon as it is out of the box.  This goes with art software as well.  Looking back, I am satisfied that I added new software to my bag of tricks, and looking forward need to continue to do the same next year!  This Geisha was one of a number of Geisha that I made in Illustrator and created a line of Geisha Greeting Cards on the computer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mixed Media Experiments with Oil

Deep Purple Serenade, Oil - Mixed Media
If you look at a lot of works by artists, the majority of people using mix media paint in acrylic.  There are so many interesting effects that can be achieved using acrylic mediums and through collage materials with acrylic paint.  Oil can be mixed with sand and other things. But as a rule most of the oils I find are oil, period.

 "Still Life with Chair Caning" Pablo Picasso
Don't forget,  it was Picasso, who first combined oil which opened the doors to all the twentieth century experimentation.
"1954" Robert Raushenberg
I also have to mention Robert Rauschenberg, who combines painting: oil, paper, fabric, newspaper, printed reproductions, wood, metal, and mirror on three canvas panels.

However, when you look for examples of people working with mixed media and oil, they are few and far between.  The painting above is one of my examples of mixed media collage with oil.  A lot of my mixed media with oil work does include the use of acrylic, before the painting is started, then gessoed and painted with oil.  The Deep Purple Serenade began with this technique but then includes lacquers and beeswax as well as oil paint.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Americana Story Telling

Butler Dairy, oil, 1990
These painters strive to quilt the bits and pieces of our history as Americans into a visual tale reflecting the day-to-day pleasures of years past: winter sledding, holiday celebrations, working the soil, Sunday afternoon buggy rides and the companionship of neighbors and friends.  American art is unique to us, it tells of our traditions and our heritage.

Potato Valley, oil 1991
Growing up as second generation Colorado Native, the landscape of the Rocky Mountains influenced me to paint my own versions of stories of my people.  I call myself a neo-utopian artist rather than Americana painter, as my stories of life were dreams of the "good-old-days", a kind of wish for a safe and perfect world.
Georgetown, watercolor 1992
Of course life was not perfect in Victorian time, or in the early twentieth century, but it also did not boast of nuclear war, gang violence or drug cartels which were are a part of life as we know it today.
Hot Air Balloon Ride at the Circus (Hugo Colorado)watercolor 1994
I played with pastel colors, creative perspective and naive representation telling stories of times and people from an imaginative events/ neo-perfected environment. with both watercolor and oil paint.

Home at Last mixed media 1998 - 2002 (repaint)
 The next logical step was to tell a story of a place that only exists in my mind.  Thus note the purple dragon and the mermaid. 
Howloween at the Dog Drop Inn, aqua oil- 2003
From time to time I am still tempted to complete one of these works, which with all the detail are very time consuming.  I always have ideas, and sometimes sketches, and hope to continue to the next sentimental journey into the past, or into my imagination.

It all began for me in 1989 at an Artist of America show in Denver where I saw my first  Americana painting by Charles Wysocki.  My paintings were bright and full of color texture and pattern, and so are Wysocki's.

I think so similar to Wysocki that I have even made work that is similar to his without realizing that they are of a similar mindset.
Playing School, tempera and ink resist,  Kara English 2010
Charmed by a style that is neither purely folk nor primitive, wysocki's paintings of a simpler time of history are snatched up as quickly as they become available.  Most people are familiar with his work as calendars and prints but his paintings sell for much much more.

Now, when faced with the prospect of telling tales with your art work, consider America art, and Charles Wysocki's world as a possible direction of an artist who has told many a tale.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Give and Take

Sounding Board, Sketchbook drawing:  Robert Brinkerhoff

One of the most wonderful art textbooks I have ever found is Drawing Inspiration Visual Artists at Work, by Michael Fleishman, published by Delmar Cengage Learning.  It is chalk full of wonderful art and illustration by working known artists. 

"Teaching at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) since 1997, Brinkerhoff instructs his students to tell him something he doesn't know. 'You teach me something,' he says, 'open my eyes to those discoveries made through your process and critical observation." from Drawing Inspiration pg23.  He relates this attitude to problem solving.

Are you saying something new with your work that someone else has not already said.  How can you do this if your work is copied from others ideas or repeats the same old trite worn ideas that others have created from for centuries?   Push yourself today to get out of your confort zone and teach us something new!


Gisha of the Clouds, Watercolor and Acrylic

In the past I have been one of the first people out there to say that my work is lacking, and not good enough.  Has this helped me to continue to develop, or has it kept me from achieving and excelling?  I think that it is difficult to create a just standard for evaluating our own art.    

I wonder how many of our known artists from history struggled with this issue.  Georgia O’Keefe at one point destroyed all of her work (she believed it was not good enough) and began again.   Heaven only knows what she destroyed. 

To what standard I wonder, do we measure our own work.  If we are not submitting it to be shown, and entered in competition then we have relatively nothing to say about the matter.  On the other hand, if we submit it to juried shows, and we still do not place, is it inferior, or is it in the correct competition?

If self-doubt it causing you to work harder, then it is good.  If it keeps you from trying to compete and grow, then it is destructive.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Experimental Painting

Dancing Gisha, Mixed Media and Watercolor on Canvas

I began experimenting with paint media in college as a topic for one of my first graduate courses in watercolor.  I had seen my mother, Louise Butler  do all kinds of non-traditional type things with her paintings that sold in her gallery and wanted to begin to "think out of the box" in my use of media. 

This began my journey and true love with painting with "new" or different methods of working.  My favorite contemporary artist who has published the bible on experimental watermedia painting is  Maxine Masterfield;  Painting the Spirit of Nature.  In 1991 Maxine Masterfield and Grace Hegeman founded ISEA (International Society of Experimental Artists).  If you want to try your hand at experimenting with media check out this book or web site!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Playing With Space

Illinois Colorscape #91, Watercolor on cold press paper by Harold Gregor

The flatscape is a term coined by artist Hearld Gregor who has invented new perspectives to painting American landscapes. 
Surrounded by flat prairie land of central Illinois, this landscape painter invented new ways to apply perspective as seen from the air. Gregor structures a series of overlapping fields of color to create these vivid paintings of colored space.

This abstracted form of playing with space remind one both of Van gogh and needle embroidery with yarn known as crewel. 

With these works the color and texture is as important to the work as the form created by the colored marks.  What draws me in, is the both the fresh view of looking at landscape in a new way, and the colorful marks which create somewhat believable yet charming paintings. 

My own playful experiments with space follow traditional perspective traditions, but play with space using color and texture as the experimental vocabulary.

 Have you played with space?  Share links to your work below.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where Do Ideas Come From?

First Gisha, watercolor and gouache

My students have been creating index card 5 minute art journals to help them generate thinking and personal ideas in painting.  In reality, a lot of ideas from a lot of art comes from both internal and external sources.  I started creating feminine forms by accident one day when I first saw a geisha in an abstract painting and was intrigued by the painting which resulted.  I then saw the female form in every abstract that I looked at.  After I attended Drama and Desire Japanese Paintings from the Floating World at the Kimbell Art Museum, my female forms took over my work.  Here is where art influences art, the external source further influencing my art making.

Recently I saw a work by Dan Krall  that so reminded me of Paul Klee’s work. "Paul Klee paintings have been classified within several different related movements including expressionism, cubism, and surrealism.”   Perhaps it is because both artists are influenced by a similar source, the child artist.   Dan Krall is a production artist for the movies as well as a freelance illustrator.  Visit his blog at  where he writes about his influences for art making.  Where do your ideas come from?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Telling Stories With Watercolor

Flying Fantasy, Acrylic and Enamels
Recently, I read an email discussion written by fellow art educators that made references to the inferiority of water-media as a topic of study for young artists.  Many of you may agree or disagree to this idea. 
We create art in a system that promotes the elitism of superstars in the fine arts.  However, take a tour of fine art throughout the centuries and see if you won’t agree with me that there is enough room in art to include everyone.  I can’t help it, from the beginning I want to embrace and inclusive philosophy rather than exclusive.  While I wonder at the divine imagery of Michelangelo, I also enjoy the story telling of Grandma Moses.
While water-media may not be a favorite in New York art galleries, certainly great watercolorists like William Turner and Winslow Homer cannot be ignored, as well should future generations of artists have the opportunity to express themselves with this media.  Just a few thoughts…What do you think?