Saturday, November 20, 2010

Self portraits — ego or what?

Looking through our family photo album recently, I found very few pictures of myself because I was the one with the camera. Did Rembrandt van Rijn, Angelica Kauffmann, William Bouguereau and other notable artists maybe think: “Wait a doggone minute here, I’ve been painting everybody else ...” ? Did they practice new brush strokes on themselves, or, like a pencil mark on a doorframe, measure their growth every-so-often? Maybe a long lull between commissions? Was Rembrandt showing off his elaborate chapeau collection?
Larry at work
    Anyway, we’re glad they did take time to paint their likenesses. On the sensible side, with the absence of drug-store photo booths in way olden times, it seems the most practical way to record and display oneself for all eternity.
    On the ego side, when a painter commissions himself to paint his own likeness, he can pump up the asking price to bolster his sometimes sagging esteem.
    Or maybe it’s something as simple as when a painter makes his self-portrait he can pretend to have any watch he wants and he can choose his own shirt without helpful advice. He can pose himself at the wheel of the Titanic if that suits him. So maybe what you’re seeing is the real thing — the artist as he prefers to be seen.
    Do you have insight into self-portraits? Please let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Painting 'Right Where Grandpa Parked It'

'Right Where Grandpa Parked It' is a 'value added visual art' landscape painting with certain liberties taken. The canvas size is 24 x 48 inches. Most of the painting was derived from one of my 'en plein air' photos at Brothers, Ore., with the vintage truck relocated from its Idaho resting place. The bullet hole in the windshield was from yet another derelict hauler. Highway 20 was intentionally left out from in front of the white building, and a decrepit water tank was added atop the wooden struts.
    This one was really fun to paint. Join in the excitement by clicking on the YouTube video below. Hang on!

Painting 'Farm Kids'

'Farm Kids' is entered in the 2010 Gamblin Colors 'Torrit Grey' competition: . Torrit grey oil paint is described thusly: 
"Every spring, Gamblin Artists Colors collects a wealth of pigments from our Torit® Air Filtration system. We filter the air around the areas where we handle dry pigments so that our workers are not exposed to pigment dust. Rather than sending any of our high quality, expensive pigments into the landfill, Gamblin paint makers recycle them into 'Gamblin Torrit Grey'". 
    Farm Kids was underpainted with Gamblin's semi-transparent Zinc White, Torrit Grey and medium on 36 x 20 x 1/8 inch hardboard panel. The final painting was done with opaque Mars Black, Titanium White and Torrit Grey. 
    I'll be pleased if you watch this short video of how this greyscale painting was made!

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