Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The third reason I quit golf

The first two reasons I gave up golf are pretty much interchangeable: (1.) the guilt of frittering away more than half-a-day instead of doing something productive; then (2.) the money wasted on greens fees, the latest equipment, replacement golf balls and those logo shirts that are good for only a couple washings. 
     The third, and I suppose the real reason I quit clubbing the earth, was the realization that I’d never be good at golf. After lessons from a clubhouse pro, coaching by well-meaning friends along the course, and thumping hundreds of errant balls toward the practice range, I never broke a hundred. That’s not much of a legacy to leave my grandkids.
     I’d rather be a reasonably accomplished painter than a divot digger. For a lot less money than a good set of golfing tools, I bought an easel, canvases and oil paints. Now when I practice I can see and compare the improvement, and when done with a canvas, I’ve produced something to hang on a wall. Or give away. Or sell. Now there’s an idea! Make some money back.
     I’ll admit golf was better exercise than aerobic tube squeezing or high-impact brush pushing, and fresh air is better than mineral spirit fumes. But I still practice plein air (outdoor) photography as a source for my scenic paintings. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

God is in the details

I’m sure someone said: “God is in the details,” before you saw it here.
     That’s particularly true in landscape and people painting. All those branches on a tree. All those lines in the bark. All the crevices in a cliff. The character lines in a mature face. Hair. Leaves. Clouds. God does them all well.
     Since He made ’em, shouldn’t we then ask for help in painting them?
     “God, you do clouds better than me. Will you help me out here?” A simple summons, but I find it helpful. I take another, closer, look at clouds, then try to coax my brush into doing what I see. So if I have God’s help painting, why does that cloud (tree, face, monolith or whatever) not look as good as the ones He makes? Well, I’ll do the best I can this time, then better next time. God’s not finished with me yet.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On teaching creativity

I hear over and over about teaching creativity to children. Can creativity be taught? I ask because it seems to have never been a problem for me. Just ask any of my grade school teachers.
     When you put a child into a room alone with a crayon, you’ll soon find out what creativity looks like. It’s most likely an abstraction — an outward expression of  what’s deep within that child (isn’t that how abstractionists describe it?).
     But it won’t be the Mona Lisa because that child has not yet learned what Leonardo had to learn getting to that point in his career.
     Wouldn’t we be better off teaching the basics of drawing, painting, clay mooshing, et al, and coach creativity as it develops naturally?

Welcome to my glob, Volume 1, Number 1. There could be erors.

I was told to write from what I know, and I know something about art, but certainly not everything I should about the subject. And that’s why I’m counting on feedback from friendly friends and (constructively) critical critics.

As a painter I favor realism with maybe a touch of humor — from others as well as myself. I believe we should paint to the best of our ability each time, and then build on that to become better — eventually achieving artist stature. Is randomly smearing paint on a canvas declaring: “It came from in here” (pointing to the heart area) the best use of God-given talent and resources?

I was not blessed into a wealthy family, nor folks that encouraged my art, nor did I have the talent to earn an art scholarship. What I learned was gleaned from art history books and studying the techniques of the Old Masters.

When I graduated from North Salem (Ore.) High School, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was sent to electronics school where my classmates were already ham radio operators and already knew the color codes on resistors. That I knew the primary and secondary color wheel was of no consequence. In the little time off I had, I’d paint oil portraits of classmates’ girlfriends from a tiny photograph . I learned the tough lesson that if it did not look like their love interest, or better, I didn’t get paid. In the mix of subjects I painted portraits of a captain and a major. The Air Force then decided I’d make a better Illustrator than Missile Maintenance Technician, so I painted fighter jets in acrylics and prepared informational slide shows for the remainder of my commitment which concluded in South Korea. At the Base Exchange at Osan, Korea, cameras were duty-free and I had access to a darkroom, so I retired my paintbrushes for a time and pursued my new found interest in photography. I admired the crisp landscape work of Ansel Adams, struck up a postal correspondence with him, and in 1966 purchased one of his noted photos — Aspens, New Mexico.

After four years of military service, I worked for the State of Oregon Education Division as a Graphic Artist, the (Salem) Statesman-Journal newspaper advertising department as an ad designer, the Silverton Appeal-Tribune newspaper as Advertising Manager, State of Oregon Employment, again as a Graphic Designer, and a now defunct graphics firm in Salem before launching my own design, commercial photography, publication design, and humorous illustration studio in 1976. We pretty much have to do-it-all to stay in business in a town the size of Silverton, Oregon. April 2011 marks my 35th year as Kassell Concepts. I photograph, write, then design ads, brochures and booklets.

I enjoy humorous illustration (cartooning), because humor and caricatures often best drive home a point. Photography is especially rewarding because a photographer has to actually be present at the event to capture a photo, and sometimes that requires extensive travel. In forty-plus years of photography I’ve met so many interesting people and witnessed so many gorgeous sunsets that I can’t keep it inside. A photo in an album, attic, or still in a camera or computer is like the tree that falls in the forest and nobody hears. So, I choose to share my illustrations and photos — but like home movies, they’d better be interesting. I published two photo books of my hometown, Silverton Sampler (1972) and Silverton Sampler II (2003).

As much as I love photography, film and darkrooms have gone the way of tail fins on cars (remember 1957?), and digital photography and its editing programs have made practically everyone a photographer. In December, 2007 I bought some canvases, an easel, a few brushes and a selection of Gamblin oils and launched my third or fourth career. Now with our six kids out of the nest, and with my wife Julia’s blessing, I paint, paint, paint — whenever I find time — like when I was in the service more than forty years ago.

Favorite artists

Seriously. The best artist in history was Norman Rockwell. The best impressionist was Bernie Fuchs. My favorite living artist: James C. Christensen. Others, living and not-so-much, are Adolphe William Bougerau, Nelson Shanks, Jacob Collins ... all traditionalists.

The best artist in Silverton, Ore. is probably the lady who decorates cakes at Roth’s Fresh Markets.

What I’ve been up to

This painting is from a photograph taken many years ago of a friend posing with my wife Julia’s VW Beetle, Susie. “The Controlled Beetle Hunt of 1968” takes a humorous poke at Oregon’s SUV and pickup owners who see little foreign nuisances on the road as fair game. A brush-and-ink rendering of this painting will be featured in an upcoming book I’m working on. I’ll keep you updated.

The Controlled Beetle Hunt of 1968

The Controlled Beetle Hunt of 1968
Oil on canvas, 24 h x 24 w