This billboard appeared in South Bend, Indiana, a few days ago. I was gobsmacked to be chosen from among 50 artists to be provided a space on one of a limited number of billboards promoting this upcoming indoor art fair. Two things make this fair a bit different–first is the fact that it’s a one of a kind winter indoor fair in Michiana (southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana). After getting drenched at Port Clinton last September I am doing my best to limit my participation to indoor venues! Second is the pickiness, for lack of a better word, of the organizer. She insists not only on the best artwork, but also on artists with the best attitude and sense of community in a group. Once she decides your art is worthy, she interviews you to make sure your personality and character are also worthy! This makes for a pleasant two days to spend in an event with like-minded participants. I last had a booth in this unique fair just as the pandemic was coming upon us in March 2020. For the next year the fair went into, to be polite, “hiatus” status while the world dealt with Covid. It returned in 2022 but I thought that was a bit too early to spend two days in an indoor space so I didn’t enter.
Now it’s back and besides this billboard I’m scheduled to appear on local TV next week to promote it. I’m starting to feel a bit like a promotion pro because this will be my third appearance on TV this year. The other two were to promote Cass Area Artists ongoing project, the Cass County Regional Gallery’s 5th semi-annual open exhibit.
Speaking of the Cass County Regional Gallery, this latest exhibit was our largest yet, with 123 pieces of art from 60 artists. We gave out $1400 in prizes and had a huge attendance at the opening artists’ reception. That project is mainly why you haven’t heard from me in a while–an awful lot of work and paperwork is involved in making the open exhibits happen and this time I put in more than the usual effort. Which I am pleased to say paid off in publicity, attendance, quality of art displayed, and most of all securing the services of a fabulous judge who chose the winning artworks.
Here’s a copy of the judge’s opening remarks to give you an idea of how he approaches the task of selecting winners and what he sees as the intrinsic value of art and artists to the community at large. I thought this was a tremendous piece of writing compared to that of some “art experts” who are prone to fill their writing with unintelligible “art speak”. Enjoy!
My last art-related visit to Illinois was in late last September for the Port Clinton Art Festival. This time I am shepherding only one painting to Illinois, which will be on display in an exhibit titled “Windows and Doors” at Tall Grass Arts Association in Park Forest. Since I already wrote a descriptive piece for the exhibit, I’m going to cheat a bit here and repost the statement–
This painting was done several years back but has remained among my absolute favorites. Probably a bit useless to say, but it looks a lot spookier in person! I often wonder if I still have that creative touch today to completely change a color scheme through imagination. This one, and a few others I worked through the same way, are a totally different mind process than any of the Sky Pads paintings. The basic difference is that Sky Pads are almost completely randomly built around a skeleton of an idea. This one, on the other hand, is purposely carefully designed toward a specific effect.
Here’s another example, from basically flat white to raucous color:
This one, titled “Red Wind”, as far as I know ended up in a Doral hotel in Illinois. It was sold a couple decades ago through an agent, and they don’t always tell you exactly who bought it. Kind of completing the Illinois circle for this style, maybe?
As I recently mentioned, my two paintings from the Sky Pads Series made it into the 6th Annual Landscape exhibit at Fernwood. As predicted, I didn’t win any awards. However, I picked out my personal winner choices before the awards were announced, and two of them matched the judge’s choices. That never happens!
These are my two entries.
Here’s a short (47 seconds) video of all 51 paintings. It starts with mine and ends with mine. If you play the video, see if anything stands out to you as possible winners. I wish the video was not so jumpy and didn’t have as many”hot” spots in it. All I can say is, iPhone videos are recorded in a weird proprietary codex invented by Apple and in many cases they have to be converted to a different format for editing and/or posting on different sites. That’s what happened here. It looks great on my phone though (sigh)…
I got to the reception early so I could get a good look at everything before it got crowded. That’s one of the downsides of art receptions–so many people standing around looking at art that you can’t see it without butting in or waiting forever for a vantage point to open up. In addition to my two personal choices that were also the judge’s choices I had two other favorites, so let’s take a look at all of them, shall we?
This lovely painting, “The Last Day of Autumn”, is by Katrina Jones. I was familiar with her work already because last winter she was one of the artists who had work at the Cass County Regional Gallery. In case I forgot to mention this a zillion blog posts ago, I am the exhibit coordinator for that gallery. So I was pleased to see this watercolor painting on Yupo. Yupo is somewhat of a trendy thing in watercolor nowadays. It’s a synthetic paper which is extruded from polypropylene pellets and is 100% recyclable, waterproof and tree-free. According to the promotional statements, “This extraordinary surface also resists tearing and buckling and it remains perfectly flat. Yupo provides visual artists with an amazingly beautiful canvas offering smooth, bright white opaques and wonderful translucents”. I think these two photos will prove the point, especially the close-up on the right.
The next piece is something I have never seen the likes of before. It’s by Ben Roseland, entitled “Autumn Forest”. What makes this acrylic on wood painting so amazing is that it is three-dimensional. I have no idea how he painted the sections so that looking at it head-on you get one smooth flat surface, but looking at it from either side it’s more like looking at columns of square tiles. Yet it all works! Here are the three views- right, left, and center.
Linda Fritschner used acrylic to turn what could have been an ordinary country lane into a coalition of shapes and colors that beckon you to step right into the painting. Its simple title, “Country Lane”, belies its well-executed perspective, use of light, and subtle colors. This one was a prize winner.
The last painting in my personal choice collection is this oil painting by Kim DeNolf titled “Sunset on Angela”. I have no idea where this is, but at least here in the stormy Midwest it could be any road shining brightly in the aftermath of a thunderstorm. I can certainly identify with the intense sky which despite its luminescence still requires headlights if you’re moving in the opposite direction! This one snatched up the “Best in Show” award.
I accepted a tiny commission a couple of weeks ago. I looked at the source photo and unabashedly said to myself, “no problem”. I always do that after a casual look and then berate myself for not noticing all the … Continue reading →
Last Friday was the opening reception at the Midwest Museum of American Art for the 44th Elkhart Juried Regional exhibit. This is the one that accepted my Sky Pads painting, number 34. Here’s the wall card with the entry stats:
Each artist was allowed two entries, which accounts for more works than artists accepted. I feel pretty good to have squeaked in as one of the 115 out of 200 accepted.
I didn’t win a prize, but then I didn’t expect to. This museum has a faithful group of supporters who have favorite artists whose works they often purchase. Some of the artists have received purchase awards several times over. The simple fact that I have not been able to connect with one of these generous benefactors pretty much explains why I didn’t get a purchase award. There were also judges’ awards, but since they were for categories it would indeed be difficult to be the one among the 115 who was able to secure an award in any particular category.
But never mind all that. I was totally pleased that my painting not only got in, but was also strategically placed in a great viewing spot. The museum exhibit occupies two floors, and my painting was right at the top of the stairs to the second floor. The lighting was perfect, and you couldn’t possibly miss it as you entered the second floor. Here’s a photo of a typical attendee getting a closer look (almost everybody leaned in for a closer look while I surreptitiously observed from the other side of the room).
And here’s a view looking the long way down the second floor gallery. Attendance was good–this is an insanely popular annual exhibit! This is a tiny portion of the total number at the reception. And as they say at Wrigley Field when the Cubs don’t make it to the World Series, “Just wait till next year”!
THIS JUST IN! Sky Pads 34 has been accepted into the Midwest Museum of American Art 44th Elkhart Juried Regional Exhibition.
I previously had applied 4 times, was accepted twice and rejected twice. My goal was to break the tie on the “accepted” side. Mission accomplished.
The next project is way more difficult–to wit: win part of the $26,000 in prizes awarded at this exhibit. The ideal prize would be their purchase award, which would put Sky Pads in the museum’s permanent collection. All I can say at this point is, well…there’s a first time for everything. If you have connections to the gods of art prizes please put in a word for me!
It only seems like I have disappeared, but now that I have a painting, some sales, and an art fair out of the way, I can actually sit down a while and write something.
I finished Sky Pads 36, but not in time to get it to the art fair last weekend. It still isn’t dry enough to frame or varnish but there’s no rush for that. I decided to backtrack a bit to some of my early Sky Pads experiments and ended up with what I like to think of as “rainy day lily pads”.
Somehow I neglected to mention a new venue in Cassopolis, Michigan, which is just a few miles from my house. It’s called the Marketplace on Broadway and it’s a combination coffee bar, performance venue, and art gallery. It opened a couple of months ago and I just happen to personally know the owner of the building. There was one long wall that was still not filled with art and he came to my studio and picked out six large pieces of my earlier landscape work to remedy that situation. I sold three of them, and two more were subsequently purchased by the person who bought two out of the original three sales. Not bad!! A second artist has now filled that wall, and when that show is over I will be putting in a wall full of lily pads. In the meantime, I have two lily pad paintings there, one on each side of the entrance door, facing tables in the coffee bar area. I love it when people are “forced” to see my work because it’s right in their face. (Insert smiling emoji here…)
The second half of August was spent planning which paintings were going to go where in my tent at the Port Clinton Art Festival in Highland Park, Illinois (yes, THAT Highland Park–insert crying emoji here). I was somewhat concerned that after that dreadful shooting in July a lot of folks would be reluctant to patronize another big street event. But I shouldn’t have worried. Port Clinton is one of the largest (260 artists) and highest rated art festivals in the country and I was totally gobsmacked to actually be accepted. So I had to make sure everything was as near perfect as possible. Which was complicated, since I hadn’t done an art fair since March of 2020–just as the pandemic was hitting. All of my usual art fair paraphernalia was scattered in all kinds of places it shouldn’t have been and required quite a bit of updating and reorganizing.
So I set up my tent walls in my garage and went to work selecting what I wanted to bring and in what kind of order it would be displayed. I updated all my brochures and tried out the credit card reader I had acquired 2 years ago but never had the chance to use. My usual art fair to-do checklist has around 75 items to be dealt with, so I was busy. After all the equipment was in order, I packed it up. Fortunately for me, my truck’s passenger seat folds down to form a table. Otherwise I never would have been able to get everything in there. Here’s what stuffing a 10′ x 10′ tent (poles, side walls, and roof), plus mesh walls for hanging, a comfy director’s chair, a table, a dolly, a step stool, signage, and a large plastic tub into the cab of a pickup truck looks like:
The tent weights and the paintings all go in the truck bed. Getting the 4′ x 5′ one in there was…”fun”. The SO had already taken my extra paintings to Chicago, so fortunately all I had to put in the truck were the initial ones to fill the tent when I set up. The drive to Highland Park on Friday was uneventful. The setup was another story. When I arrived the street booth space I was assigned was already occupied by someone who, I guess, couldn’t read booth numbers painted in the space. So I had to wait for them to move all their stuff to their proper space. It was a narrow street, so getting your vehicle in there in the first place was problematic. While I waited for them to move I had to somehow get my truck out of the way of others still coming in. When my parking and the relocation was finally settled, the artist on the other side of me parked so close to my space that I had to ask her to move her Amazon-sized van up a few feet so I could get the front poles of my tent up. After that, all went more or less according to plan, and I secured the tent and its contents and left the area around midnight…
Saturday, sunny and not too hot. Here’s the product of my labor:
In the photo above, the painting on the right side wall at the top nearest the corner (big green leaves) sold to a very nice gal who along with her husband had just purchased a new home and were looking for some art to go with it. She had visited earlier with her young (maybe 4-5 year-old?) daughter, who was collecting business cards! She asked if she could have one of mine, which of course she could. A couple of hours later they returned and Mom bought the painting. I love it when that happens!
Sunday was also nice, a bit hotter, but OK until about an hour before the event closed. Then the sky opened and seriously dumped on us. We knew it was coming, so I had started packing up early. You can’t bring your vehicle in until you’ve broken down your tent and are ready to load your vehicle, which in a case like this is wildly inconvenient because your tent is what’s keeping your merch from getting soaked. There was an enclosed stairwell in the building behind my tent, so I stashed my paintings there while I dismantled the tent. I got everything organized and ready to go, then retrieved my truck. By that time water was sluicing down on us. I strongly resembled a wet rat. I can’t recall any other art fair which left me so sopping wet. When I packed all the tent items into the cab they too were wet. I couldn’t do the the paintings until about an hour later when it let up enough for me to open the cover on the truck bed and stack them in. When I got home on Monday I was able to unload without incident, but all the wet tent walls and mesh walls had to be laid out to dry. As of today, they were finally dry enough to fold and put away.
I’m thinking about not doing any more outdoor shows, but I probably will anyway. In the meantime, I am entering a couple of Sky Pads paintings in the Midwest Museum of American Art 44th Elkhart Juried Regional Art Exhibition. I’ve been accepted twice and rejected twice. Should be interesting to see what happens this time.
I have also already signed up for a 2-day indoor show next March called “For the Love of Art”. It was the art fair I did which I mentioned above that was in March 2020. At least if it pours down rain at the end of that show we can all just hang out inside until it lets up!
Once again I had to set aside my painting for a bit in order to get a few other things accomplished. Actually it was more like one big all-consuming project with a deadline.
Cass Area Artists, of which I am the treasurer, co-sponsors a 3-month exhibit at the County Administration building in Cassopolis, Michigan twice a year. If you were following me a couple of posts in the recent past you might remember me mentioning this. To give you an idea of the complexity of organizing this event let me just say that as the coordinator of the exhibit I have a spreadsheet “to-do” list starting a month in advance which in its present incarnation boasts 76 items that must be completed and checked off. That said, it all got done and if you would like to take a quick walking tour through the artwork and the reception you can do it here:
This past week I have taken advantage of my newly-found free time to work on Sky Pads 36. I have completed the fourth pass on the canvas, and as far as subject matter is concerned it is final. I am debating how I will integrate foreground and background once again and I now have a new issue to resolve. I would like to do something similar to Sky Pads 11 which dates back to 2016. Most of these layers were added after the pads had been completed. I love the way everything floats in undefined space.
There is, of course, a fly in the ointment for #36 or I wouldn’t be postponing the next steps. When I did the original paint pour background I did it the way I have done it since I discovered that texturing trick. The pigment patterns are not stable until there is paint or varnish over them. I’ve been able to work around this mostly because until recently I haven’t felt the need to integrate foreground and background. If I now do a paint pour in the style of #11 (using paint mixed in a solvent) the pigment patterns will most likely dissolve and lose both their shape and intensity. I had some issues with this in the past 4 or 5 paintings. The solution would be a layer of fixative applied before the pour. The catch is, 99.9% of fixatives are meant to hold powdery media–charcoal, pencil, pastel, etc)–in place. They do not work on oil paint. So I did some research and I think I found that .1% of fixatives that might fill the bill. Order placed…waiting for delivery so I can try it out on some scrap canvas first. You’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, here’s #36:
Here we have the third pass for Sky Pads 36. It looks like there’s quite a bit of green in the picture now. The truth is, it’s a kind of soft navy blue (if there even is such a thing) which I mixed using phthalo blue, which is a really bright blue, and some mars red, which looks sort of like dark red bricks. Putting the new “navy” mix over the yellow gave it a green cast. And because the colors I mixed it from are transparent, it gives a feeling of looking through them.
There’s still a bit more contrast to be added to this painting, then I can figure out, once again, how to unite the subject with the background. As I have had many times, I have a plan. I’m simply not sure it will work. I’d like to make sure the lily pads continue to look like they’re floating, but not necessarily in water. Maybe in some ephemeral concoction.
I managed to get truer colors in this photo, which shows the second pass of transparent paint over the poured paint background. Now I will direct my efforts toward working more of the background colors into the lily pads. And the harder part, keeping everything relatively transparent as the subsequent layers go on.
For not the first time, but maybe the last time, I have started a "home business". The difference with this one is that it is one I really enjoy. I've drawn and painted horses since I was (at least) five years old--that's the earliest one that my mother saved.
By the time I entered my teens, Mother had grown a bit tired of the subject and urged me to do something else with my artwork besides horses. I followed her advice and never looked back until ten years ago when it occurred to me that people might actually pay for horse portraits. I have had many exhibits of my landscapes, and sold a good number of them--but not enough to provide any kind of steady income.
I'm hoping that if I work hard and market this business well I will be able to delight my customers, make some money, and have a lot of fun doing it.
Visit many more horses and my rural landscapes at http://allifarkas.com, or click on my photo above.