Sunday, September 18, 2011

Swerving Along the Artistic Road

8" x 10" watercolor on Arches 140 lb. natural white cold press paper

Something is going on here, and I'll bet you're looking to me to tell you what it is.  Well I can't.

I'll bet you're thinking,  If you don't know what's happening, then I certainly don't.

That, I am sure, would be a perfectly reasonable position for you to take if I had any idea what is going on myself. But I don't.

So you, my friend, are being unreasonable.

No offense.

I do have three theories though.

Theory number 1:  I am a Groupie. I can't help it.  I am as helpless as a schoolgirl at a Justin Bieber concert.  To test this theory, I popped into a Justin Bieber fan club site, to see just what a groupie is like.  Quotes from the fans included:  "justin bieber is following me on twitter now :::::::)))))))))) supper [sic] happy" and "Sooo i was eatin [sic]at a restraunt [sic] and i had fries…and they had suger [sic] on 1 side of the tabe [sic] and salt on the other, and i didnt [sic] see the i accidently [sic] put suger [sic] on my fries soooo groooosssssss!!!!"

Okay, maybe not.

But I feel like an art groupie nonetheless.  The truth is that I go from art blog to art blog, art site to art site - some are modern, and some are traditional, some are creative, and some are skilled - and often when I see something I like, something I looooooveeee :::::::)))))))))), I worship that artist, drool a little, and want to do the very same thing.  More than that - I want to do what he or she is doing all of the time.  I want to live his or her life, step into his or her shoes, and wear his or her pants.

Okay maybe not the pants.

Case in point, the other day I was surfing and went to Chris Beck's watercolor blog, "I am Painting As Fast as I can", here, and he dedicated a post to Frank Eber, another signature member of the National Watercolor Society.  From there I sailed to Frank Eber's blog, here, and BOOM, infatuation.  I read every post in his blog.  Yes.  Every post.  Swoon.  Because I liked what I saw and maybe he said something there I could learn from so I could try what he was doing.

The above picture is my humble first effort.

One of my longest art crushes has been Celeste Bergin.  Her blog is here.  In oil she has an experimental and impressionist style that I greatly Desire.., but oil is a long way from watercolors.  And here was Frank Eber, doing en plein air in a loose impressionist style with my medium.  Sigh.

The problem with this is that some of you may recall a few short posts back my infatuation was .. well, we'll get to that in Theory no. 2.

[Note:  I do not want any of you to get the wrong impression, so perhaps my analogy for theory no. 1 should have been as follows:  I am tobacco spittin' sure bowled over by that Magnum .22 he's a shootin'.  Yeah.  That's closer.]

Theory No. 2. I am as Loose as a Goose with a Masseuse.  So here I am, under Frank Eber's spell.  In my "fine art"- type watercolors I have often spent a lot of time concentrating on details, like shape, color and light.  It has often been a slow and methodical process.  Frank Eber, however, abhors detail.  He is washy - mostly wet-on-wet.  He simplifies, focusing on shapes and values, saying we should connect the shapes to provide unity in our paintings, and instructing that values exceed color in importance, which is most certainly true.  I wish I could quote him, but I must respect his copyright and have no time to request permission, so I encourage you to visit his blog.

So with all this in mind, I grabbed a larger brush than usual, and tried to be loose, simple and free!

I am one of these people that cannot be massaged.  I am tight.  I run from masseuses.  But today, I was loose.  I couldn't find my pencil (Frank Eber at least pencils in general shapes).  So I just started applying paint to paper.  I was en plein air, sort of.  I was outside, kind of, with only my car's windshield between me and the Town of South Miami.  So I was en plein air conditioner.

I was Michael Jordan.  I was Gumby.  I was the Dali Lama.  How loose was I?   I was so loose that I lost track once or twice where I was going and what I was doing - I had to remind myself that impressionistic did not mean careless, so that the skyline ended up changing a bit.  It is a different South Miami, than South Miami.  I was Caravaggio.  A loose Caravaggio.

But, going back to theory no. 1, my infatuation just two months ago was with Andrew Wyeth,  His work is  not wet, but dry, and hardly impressionistic, but greatly detailed.  So what does that mean?!

Theory no. 3. I am thoroughly lost.  It was great fun doing this painting, and I will do more in that style I am sure even though I know it is not what I will do the most and will not be where I ultimately head.  I will do more of that just as I will do more drybrush, more ink and watercolor, and more detailed watercolors that are somewhere in between.  I am fine artist.  I am illustrator.  I admire fine artists.  I admire illustrators.  I sketch.  I draw meticulously.  I am careless.  I am detailed.  I want to learn acrylics, monoprint, perhaps oil, and who knows what else.  I like still lifes, portraits, cityscape, and everyday portrayals of people.  I admire traditional art, and more recent isms, and modern design.

So where am I?  I am everywhere!  I am nowhere.

I believe - I hope - that this is the definition of a student.  I have found my passion, and my infatuation.   I travel down many roads and one day I hope to find my road. At the start of this blog, I wrote its tag line: "Swerving along the artistic road with every sight a potential target."  When I wrote that, I was thinking of subject matter.  Without understanding, I also seem to have summed up the journey of finding artistic voice and method of expression. 

And that is where I am.  Everywhere.  Nowhere.

So something is going on here, for sure.  I hope.  And someday I hope to look back and know what.


  1. Hi, Dan, and well said! I understand your feelings totally. Your guy, Frank Eber, sounds a lot like "my guy," Charles Reid. Which is so the opposite of how I proceed . . . but I occasionally pull out a book of Mr. Reid's and attempt several of the exercises, thinking that someday, "osmosis will set in!!"

    The colors and shapes in your landscape are beautiful. It has a soft and romantic feel. And, how cool that you "got lost" in the process. . . that is HUGE!!!

  2. Theory No. 3--I'm with you. I have swerved my whole life; I'm not sure it's a bad thing.

  3. hey Dan---thanks os much for the shout-out! I ran over to Eber's blog...yeah....I can see right away how you'd get all groupie over him. Who would blame you? haha I took up painting at a very advanced age....all because I had to work with about 6 illustrators for about 10 years---whoa...they were so good I knew I could never be near as good as they were. They "had it covered"! Since then I have learned that we each have a voice--our own voice and each voice is valid. You did a great job on this from-the-car watercolor and I hope you do more!
    ! I met an accomplished artist recently who had been a student of Diebenkorn..This artist's work was all over the place, drawings, surreal, abstract, representationall, big, small ...he told me galleries hate all that (they like a body of work that looks the same!) but he also said "to constantly evolve and change and explore..isn't that the very definition of artist?"

  4. Hi Dan,
    How brave...I often think I should be so loose, so free. But I always fall back to extreme tightness. And to try different things/styles.

    How brave...Sketching with just brush and colour. Doing just what I dare not. I have trouble just sketching in general. I have no idea what stops me...strange.
    And don't get me started on sketching in public and sketching the public. I really would love to sketch people/places the way you do.

    I understand the 'art groupie' thing perfectly. Blimey, I waste so much time looking at so many different artists websites. But then I think, It is not a waste. Thank God for the internet - there is so much to see. So much inspiration. Tis why I visit your site and many others. Always learning.
    Ooh...can't remember if I said this but...Great Painting Dan!

  5. Hi Dan, I think its great to be on a path and not sure what the end destination is. That's how I learn (trying new things)... and opening yourself up to the possibilities is a wonderful challenge. I hate to sound corny but the the journey is sometimes more fulfilling than the destination. Enjoy the ride. I love that you were able to work so spontaneous and wet and maintain the geometrics of the structures.

  6. Love all your voices, the journey is long... but it is the only way to our place (whatever that is). I do the same thing you do, I'm easily distracted . You should check out my latest artist to drool over Jean Haines... google her she doesn't use a pencil at all, even for a portrait... now THAT is courage and skill.

  7. I'm so glad I'm not the only "wanna-be, lost, groupie"! Sometimes I wonder. I really enjoyed reading this post. Good one, Dan.

  8. You're a man at a buffet...trying a bit of this and a bit of that. I think it's wonderful! Try as much as you can, love as much artwork as you can. Either you'll settle on a style or you'll find out that you want to do it all. Any win! Great giant step, Dan!! More! More!

  9. Observing+experimenting = learning
    Internet has opened up a whole new world for art, I could spend the whole day just looking at other people's work. I like so many subjects and styles and it's hard to choose just one. I look on it as an education and a journey...who knows where the road will go!

  10. Kindred spirits Dan. I love it all too. Can emulated it all as well--but who the F am I? I have no clue. But loose moves this way and that and I do love to dance. Take a look at The Colorist. His Blog is listed on mine. Pastels are his thing and he's good. Lots of freedom.

  11. You did it again. Your painting, discussion, and references all worked to brighten my day! Thanks.

  12. Dan, be thrilled that the artists you admire work in pencil, pen, paint. What if, like myself, you also admired those who work with all manner of textile media? I go crazy splitting my time between my drawing inpliments and my needles and thread. (I also do jewelry and stained glass, but those are entirely on the back burner.)

  13. I loved this post! For myself, as someone who is interested in just about anything creative that's flat (I just don't do 3D for some reason) like photography, drawing, painting, textile, mixed media, collage, etc. etc. I like to think that it means I'm a broad minded person with many interests and that I will never ever be bored. I have no need to become a specialist in anything, I just want to keep learning and trying new stuff. Enjoy the art ride!

  14. What a great self-reflection you have that Dan. It's so hard to define ourselves sometimes, or even trying to understand who we are and where we're going. I am stuck at the point where I am greedy about doing different things, I wanted to be a pilot, a genius scientist, a chef, a teacher, a rock star, a weatherman... actually I just wanted to be everything. Life's too short to do everything, so I just decided to let it go a little bit and see how things work for me instead. I am not sure how well this is working out for me, but so far so good.
    Love the drawing by the way, and thank you so much for your comments =) I really appreciate that

  15. Dabble away, art like fine food should be sampled. How else will you know what you enjoy? When you get to the point that you want to narrow down your applications and decide what it is you do best, show the art you enjoyed making the most with a child under the age of four. They do not spare your feelings and they haven't been tainted by the world's rules yet.

  16. I like the En Plein Aire Conditioner approach. Brilliant. I detect a sense of urgency here--and frustration. Don't ever loose you wonderful sense of humor. It gets really funny when you hit 60. And remember if it produces pain, it ain't art.

    Outstanding post.

  17. Another amazing post, Dan! Love the loosy-goosy painting! I think a creative mind just likes to 'make' with whatever is at's the creative mindset. You could put a block of wood in my hands and I'd be thinking about what really cool things I could make with it! Of course, if we ever desire to be really great at something, it would probably help if we focused a little. Right now, I'm focusing on drawing and watercolor. Not because I want to focus on them particularly (oils sounds great!), but because it is easier with the space I have to create in.

  18. I like to try what others do also. I think there is nothing wrong with that at all. You'll find what you like or don't like by imitating other artists. I bet you can never paint exactly like them either and not because you are not good at painting but because you are YOU. Eventually you'll put what you like to do the most with the tools you like the most and it will clearly say "Dan" and you'll have your style. I don't think anyone needs to try to find their style; it will just happen. So go on experimenting all you want. It will influence you some but it will not make you into someone you are not. Your personality will work it's way through. Have fun.

    I like your picture and have never been to Miami or S. Miami so wouldn't know that the skyline has been altered - besides this isn't a photo but your interpretation of the city so it's just fine your way!

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  20. As usual Dan a great picture and I have to say this time, a greater story, maybe you should do a book illustrated by yourself. As it happens I know exactly where you are coming from, I drool over other artists work, then after a period of deep depression try some of their techniques only to end up doing the same old stuff I always do. Hey Ho. Keep telling the stories and more important keep painting .

  21. Hi Dan - I 've visited this post twice, and twice I've left without making a comment. Because I didn't know what to say. I've done this switching from one technique or skill or interest to another all my life, and gained the not very helpful label of 'butterfly mind' from people around me. This morning I was reading Twyla Tharp's book 'The Creative Habit', and she put a whole new spin on it.

    In a nutshell, she argues that every artist faces a paradox. "Experience - the faith in your ability and the memory that you have done this before - is what gets you through the door. But experience also closes the door. You tend to rely on that memory and stick with what has worked before. You don't try anything new."

    She goes on to say that inexperience gives us a childlike fearlessness: it erases fear. You do not know what is and is not possible and therefore everything is possible.

    She cites Beethoven (see, we are in good company) who constantly switched genres as a way of "maintaining his inexperience, and as a result, enlarging his art."

    So that's what you (we) are doing - enlarging our art. Now that was an exciting thought for me, and I thought it might be helpful.


  22. Your watercolor came out so beautifully!

    I fall in love with a lot of work, and go dabbling around in other techniques and methods. It just can't be helped! It's good to get lost.

    I remember listening in on a conversation in a workshop, one person saying he wasn't sure what style he wanted to be, and the instructor said you have no control over it; it just develops and becomes that singular thing that differentiates your work from others. So I figure it's fine to go mess around in lots of other stuff, because our brains and our styles tend to bring it all together in the end =)

  23. Well, another great, interesting post, Dan. Thanks for the links - I've fallen head over heels,too! I love your little painting - it's loose and lovely. I think I think trying different approaches is what ultimately leads us to our own style (but of course, I'm not certain what I think). lol nancy

  24. I love your painting! And your are right, it's all a part of the learning process - which is a journey, not a destination to be reached. Great post!

  25. "The truth is that I go from art blog to art blog, art site to art site" That's me too.

    oh I can so relate to thais - "I am one of these people that cannot be massaged. I am tight. I run from masseuses."

    Where are you? Doesn't matter as long as you enjoy it and keep posting!

  26. Besides being an artist, did you know that you are a consummate writer as well? Oh, you probably did, but I'm putting it out here for the world to see! I want people to come back to your blog for more and more--images AND well-crafted sentences.

  27. I have so many wonderful, long, well-thought out comments, that it is going to take me a long time to digest everything. Thank you all so much for the hints, the advice, the compliments, the observations, etc. - It is more than I could have imagined, but I shouldn't be surprised, because you are truly a wonderful group of people that I am so fortunate to know, if only virtually. Thank you to all, responding to some of you more specifically:

    Betty - getting lost in the process - painting always takes me away..sigh. I lose track of time. I love it.

    Hallie - Thank you. You have truly swerved to a good place, judging from your recent work!

    Celeste: Great quote from the Diebenkorn student - I am sure that he is right!

    Stew - Thank you. Whenever I hesitate I just think of how little time I have left to live and learn all of this stuff! That get's me going. lol. And you are right - it is not a waste, it is an inspiration.

    Robin - I love the journey, it is true.

    Capt. Elaine - Such beautiful free work! I can see why you drool (as I wipe my chin).

    WWendi - The company is good for me too!

    Ellen - Except at a buffet I get full, here I just get hungrier!

    Cathy - Great equation. I know I take something from everything I see. Thank you.

    LW Roth - I have followed the Colorist for a long time - you are right, he is so free and aptly named. (And he is and has been listed on my blog list too).

    Sandra - I am so glad.

    Cheryl - Yep, tough. A good problem to have though.

    Caatje - I'm so glad you loved the post - I will hold my shoulders high and think of myself as "broad-minded."

    Alex - I say I am lost, and you call it "great self-reflection". lol. Looks like you are doing the same, and have reached a good place.

    Mary - Hah! That is true, but do they know art?

    William - Your comment touched home - there is urgency and frustration. I tend to want everything too fast, a bit hard on myself, esp. with the limited time that I have in my schedule. It's funny here in the early 50's. I do suspect it gets funnier the further we go. hah.

    raena - There you go with Great Art Thoughts again. Focus is everything, I think.

    freebird - I am not worried about a style, really, that will come through. It is how best to present what I want to do, and gain proficiency at that presentation.

    Phil - I have thought about writing and illustrating a book for a long time, and I hope I will. I default back to my work to keep working but hope to evolve with each new thing I learn. I think it has already happened somewhat.

    Sue (whatidoisme) - Butterfly mind - that's me! Thank you - what a great thought. I am going to mull this over some more, certainly.

    jenna - That is the goal - to bring it all together. But before the end. lol.

    Nancy - See?! See?! Another member of the fan club!

    Ann - Life is a journey to be lived, not a puzzle to be solved. - one of my favorite sayings. I love the journey, for sure.

    Sue - Where am I? It seems I am with you! Thanks for the company.

    MMT - Thank you so much. I consider my writing to be part of my art. The canvas is very broad.

    Hmmm, I may have responded to all of you. Thank you all again, so much.

  28. Dan, I absolutely looooooveeee:::::))))) this analogy! Brilliant!

  29. As long as you're loose as a goose in a group- you'll never be lost for long.... OK- that was lame, right?

    My serious comment (as loathe as I am to be serious) is being lost is a part of the creative process. Lusting is too. An being an eternal student is an absolute requirement.

    And sometimes young man, you have to tune out everyone and everything to hear yourself. It's a lonely path but it often converges into the path of like minded friends.

    Dr. Seuss wrote: 'Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.'

    I have no clue if that is quote resonates for you.... It's just one I think of often.

    I too love Celeste. Thanks for the links!

  30. New painting! we need a new painting!

  31. This is such a nail-on-the-head post for so many of us! (And I too have been salivating over Celeste Bergin's work for some time.) First let me say my favourite spot in your painting is the building on the left. There's something about the way the main part of the structure is inset. You really created nice depth there and the vertical lines are just .. I don't know. I just really like it. (How's that for deep intellectual artspeak?)

    And secondly (oops, I guess I should have said "firstLY" above) I must add my bark of appreciation for your writing skill as well. It's always entertaining, usually informative, and often inspiational. Thank you Dan!

  32. Hey Dad,
    It's been a while since I've been on here. Usually when I read your posts it's because I'm at home, so there's no reason to comment. I can just ridicule you from down the hall, heh.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know I thought your post was hysterical (in a good way). I loved the thing about the Justin Bieber fans. You've become so very... internet. I don't know how else to describe it. I used to think using "swoon" as a sentence was reserved for high school to college aged girls on facebook, but it seems you've proven me wrong on that count. :P

    I'm with you on just about everything you said on here, except the whole "found my passion" thing, I figure I have time yet to get to that. Maybe it will be halfway through my career. Maybe then I'll start a blog, or whatever blog-like thing will exist 30 years from now. Maybe then I'll pleasantly surprise my son with clever words and expressions that come dangerously close to encroaching on the cultural ground of his age group.

    Nah. But maybe. If there's one thing I've learned by living, it's that life is damned uncertain. Talk to you later Gumby.

  33. Well my goodness. I don't need to do a thing more on this blog and I will keep getting comments on this one post! Thank you all.

    Kara - I am so glad you looooooveeeed:::::)))))this.

    Pamo - You just have to keep saying "young man" and it's good enough for me. The rest is a blur. Your saying resonated with my wife though - she wrote it down!

    Celeste - Actually, I have several things to post. I just haven't had the time! And I never stop sketching and painting. Never! Thanks. It's coming..

    Ruca - Thanks for wagging your tail at this one. You are the second artist to tell me how much you liked the building on the left - I thought it was overworked, and was rather proud of the one on the right in the back. Shows what I know.

    Ide - Loved this comment. I guess you can ridicule me anywhere you want as long as you read me! OMG I just figured out who you are!! ("Hey Dad" was a hint - Yes I am slow.) OK. I am totally pleased to trounce all over your cultural ground!! You are a great generation (and you are the best of that generation if I may say so myself). And the other way to say "life is damned uncertain" is that life is full of surprises. And what I have found is that every time I have thought I have figured something out, I have been surprised again. But what, I ask, is better than that?!