Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holiday MIniature Show opens soon...

Shade Buddies, 12X16, oil on linen board

Water Ride, 12X16, oil on linen board

Valley of the Patriarchs, 8X10, oil on linen board

click here to view: Trailside Galleries, Online Holiday Miniature show

Tis the season.....for Miniature shows that is. These three paintings, are my contribution to Trailside Galleries Holiday Miniature show. All are perfect for that western art lover in your life. And none are so big as to break the bank. The show runs at Trailside Gallery, in Scottsdale, AZ, from December 1 thru December 27. I will be there on December 4th for the artist's reception. The reception is from 7-9pm, so if you are in the area, please stop in and say hello, I'd love to meet you!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My First time being tagged...

Valley of the Patriarchs, 8X10, oil on linen panel

Well, I can't believe it's been a whole month since I posted last. I just got back from Zion National Park in Utah. Beautiful doesn't even begin to describe what it's like there in the fall. I cannot wait to get back. But on to other things. I received a post from the very talented painter and blogger Teresa Rankin, that she had tagged me on her blogspot. I had no idea what she was talking about, but Teresa has been so kind and supportive to me and I appreciate that. So I skipped over to her blog to see what all the hubbub was about. This is what I discovered...... In the blogging world one blogger can "tag" another by adding a link to your site from theirs. This is great, in that lots of people who have never heard of you get the opportunity by following their link. I do this all the time. I'll click on the links of the artists whom I admire, to find lots of other artists who's ability and vision blow me away. It seems like every day I stumble on another incredible talent. It's one of the reasons I love the internet so much. However, there are a few rules you have to follow if you are tagged (tagging ettiquette I guess you could say). Here are the rules:

1. Put a link in your posting to the person who tagged you.
2. List 7 unusual things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 other bloggers at the end of your post and comment on their blogs to let them know.

Hmmmm, I suppose I can think of seven unusual things about myself, but can I come up with ones that won't completely embarass my family or require me to undo all the good that my expensive therapy did by digging up my past. I'm game to try, so here goes...

1) I play the Tin Whistle (aka, penny whistle or irish whistle). There, I said it, and I'm glad it's out. Haha!! What on earth is the tin whistle you are probably asking, and why would anyone play it. Well, the tin whistle is just what it sounds like. It's a cheap whistle with six holes and is played primarily in Irish music. Usually you can pick up a good whistle for about ten bucks and they don't sound much different than the more expensive whistles. Why do I play? Lots of reasons really. Back in school I played the trumpet and almost became a musician. But I went the artist/illustration route. I haven't picked up my trumpet in many years. In the past year, I wanted to get back to playing an instrument, but wanted it to be cheap to buy, easy to learn, perfect to pick up and play at the end of a long painting day. It's also very portable, so that I could take it with me and play it when I wanted on the road, or the opportunity arose (like around campfires at the end of a painting day). There are very few things as uplifting and beautiful as a well played tin whistle.

2)When I was sixteen, I almost lost an eye. I was helping my uncle convert a stock car into a racing car. I was with my buddy, and we were trying to take the windshield out of the shell of the car. I pried a screwdriver under the seal of the windshield to try to get it to pop out. Next thing I know the windshield had shattered into a gazillion tiny fragments and I had one slice through the cornea of my left eye (this was in the dinosaur days before helmets and protective eyewear were the norm. I took sixteen stitches to the lens of my eye during micro surgery by an incredibly talented doctor who was a specialist in occular surgery. He happened to be in the area, training other doctors to repair the eyes of people who were dumb enough to do something as stupid as me. Its why I wear glasses to this day and why I will never be able to wear contact lenses or have Lasik surgery to fix my vision. Jeezsh, It's a wonder any of us live to adulthood. I never have stuck my finger in a light socket though.... those people are reallllly dumb. I think there were about 6 years in a row that I ended up in the hospital or emergency room during my preteen to early teen years for one thing or another.

3) I am distantly related to Chris Kirkpatrick, of N' Sync fame (he's the one with the Dred locks). Very distant. My Aunt was his Grandmother. That's pretty distant.

4) My wife Ann and I met at the opening of one of my art shows.

5) I have absolutely no home handyman skills. I do my best, but I'm hopeless.

6) My favorite movies are kind of oddball comedies. Grumpy Old Men, Grumpier Old Men, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and Mel Brook's homage to Alfred Hitchcock, High Anxiety. But I don't get the humor of the Three Stooges. What's that all about?

7) I'm a huge fan of the UFC and MMA. Can't get enough. I also love rodeo and the PBR (bull riding). But I can't stomach hunting. In fact I can't even watch it on TV. I have nothing against it personally, and I understand why it's necessary. I just can't do it myself. Fishing is not a problem, and I love to get out whenever I can (which ain't often).

8) When I was working as an illustrator, I did the artwork for some of the Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Booberry boxes. Also the illustration for the Monopoly Junior game box. I've worked on Wheaties, Trix, Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch as well as many others. I guess I'm the one responsible for trying to get your kids to throw tantrums until you gave in out of frustration and bought the product just to shut them up. This was followed by the sugar rush in which they bounced off the walls until the eventual sugar crash and coma.

.... well that's it. Just to see if you were paying attention, I threw in an extra one that is a bald faced lie. Couldn't help it, it's just how I am. But can you tell which it is?


Here is my list of 7 other artists which I want to tag. I'm not too worried if they've already been tagged by someone else. They are definitely worth checking out, IMO.

Bill Anton in my opinion, one of the very best western artist's working to day. Bar none.
Rusty Jones and incredibly talented plein air painter. I'm looking forward to meeting Rusty in May.
Jacquelyn Bischak paints figures with feeling and mood better than just about anyone. Her draftsmanship is second to none.
Jennifer McChristian a painter's painter. One of these days I will take a workshop from Jennifer. She has much to teach me.
Xiangyuan Jie also a painters painter. The other artist from which I will be taking a workshop at some time in the future.
John Taft I love the direct and unfussed with nature of John's paintings.
John Hughes John is a master of plein air. I truly don't know how he does what he does in the field.

Heres a bonus post to my cousin Jason Eustice. He is an incredibly talented, up and coming country songwriter/singer. His father was also a promising songwriter/singer who died very young and who's star burned out way too soon. Jason is following in his fathers footsteps and chasing that dream. I'm proud of you Bro'. Enjoy!!

Thats it. I hope you got a kick out of my post. Thanks for wasting some time with me.


P.S. The false tidbit is #4. I wasn't painting yet, when I met Ann way back in 1999. We actually met at swing dance lessons. We both love 1940's big band swing music. I actually got the painting bug on our honeymoon in northern Minnesota. True story.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New painting for Texas Art Gallery's Fixed Price Draw event on November 7th

Indian Maiden, 12X16, Oil on linen panel

I painted "Indian Maiden" for the Fixed Price Draw at Texas Art Gallery on November 7, 2008. What is a fixed price draw, I hear you asking (well maybe not out loud)? It's really simple. The painting is offered at a show with a box next to it. Every painting in the Draw has a price clearly marked next to it. During the Gallery draw event, everyone who shows up, gets to walk around enjoying the paintings and deciding which they would like to take home with them. You add your name to the other names in the box for the painting you want. At a designated time the gallery gathers all the boxes and selects the name of some lucky collector who then can then buy the painting. This can be a good thing and a bad. I've seen people put their name in many boxes just hoping to take one of their favorites home, and been selected for every painting they applied for. Of course they have the right of refusal if they get in over their heads. I've also seen many disappointed collectors go home empty handed. It just depends on lady luck. Fixed price draws are a very good way for people who don't necessarily have deep pockets, to be able to compete on a level playing field with those collectors who do. Ann and I have gotten a several paintings this way from painters who's paintings are so in demand that often times they are still wet when they're sold!

I painted Indian Maiden after going to an Ojibway PowWow in Minnesota this past July. I caught this beautiful girl in a quiet moment between dances. I wanted to paint something that had a timeless quality. The photos of Edward Curtis came to mind and I decided to paint her portrait in a sepia tone. The paint in the background is quite thick and textural, much like a stucco wall. This works well to set off the more controlled paint on her face. Otherwise the painting would, for me, have been too bland. My favorite part of this painting is the where her hair is in shadow on the side of her head and the individual hairs which are lit up by the sun (above and to the left of her ear). This really gives the feeling of the strongly lit scene which was infused with sunlight.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cowboy Payday

I've been painting lots since I got back from the Bosque Conservatory's Art Classic show in Texas. Ann and I had a great time, as usual. I want to say Thank You to Wally and Punky Penberthy for generously opening their home and hearts to us. They have a wonderful collection of art and I was happy as a pig in mud, while I was able to soak it all in. The painting "Walk Softly" sold at the show to a couple of incredible collectors and I thank them for that. You might remember that that was the painting of the mountain man holding a war club, which I shared earlier in the year in this blog. It was shown step by step during it's creation. And though, at times, the creative process isn't pretty and it took a while for me to get it right, it was worth it. These collectors told me that reading the blog on that painting's creation gave them a connection to it that's rare. It's always a thrill when a painting sells. It's even more thrilling when you get to know the people who buy it. Thanks Bob and Billie!!

Painting UPDATE: Sleeves added to Cowboy Payday!

Cowboy Payday, 24X18, oil on linen

Detail View 1

Detail view 2

The idea for this painting came on the day I was talking to Alessandro. He was the horse wrangler at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. I immediately liked Alex. When he walked into a room you knew it. He walked big, the sound from his boots and spurs boomed off the wooden floors. He talked big. I don't mean he bragged. I mean that you could tell he spent most of his life outside, since he used his outside voice. We started making small talk at breakfast and before I knew it he had talked me into a trailride (O.K, I volunteered myself for a trail ride). After we had saddled up and were on the trail, he told me how he had moved to the U.S. from Italy and that he had always wanted to be cowboy and work with horses. His job as a wrangler allowed him to do that, and he loved it. He told me he wasn't getting rich and that he probably never would have a lot of money. So, of course, I asked him why he did it. After all, his job was long hours of hard work. Why take a job that didn't make you rich? He just smiled a sly smile and with a sweep of his hand to the land, he said, " Out here, everyday is payday". That's where the idea for the painting came from. This is Alex on his horse. Most cowboys are pictured in button down shirts, but Alex liked sleeveless shirts, and he had the build that allowed him to wear them. I had a tough time deciding on whether to keep him in his sleeveless shirt, or put him in the traditional cowboy shirt. Since this painting was all about the freedom that comes with the job, I decided that leaving him in his sleeveless wouldn't single handedly cause the bottom to fall out of the western art market, wink wink. I took him out of the Texas landscape and put him in a Wyoming scene in the Fall. I wanted to condense the idea down to show that all cowboys, no matter where they're from, are rich in the ways that are most important to them. They feel that if they have a working truck, a good horse, a dog, and a job they can take pride in, they are very well paid.

I thought about this while I painted this picture and had to smile to myself. Being an artist who walked away from my job as an illustrator, I understand completely. In the end, some things are more important than money. The memory of my trailride with Alex for example. And the blessing of being able to paint memories like these.

taker' easy, Steve

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Painting: "Distant Promise of Rain"

Distant Promise of Rain, oil on linen panel, 8X24"

Detail view

This is a vista view from the top of the hill which houses the grotto of the San Xavier Mission. Everwhere you look there's big air, and if you are a plein air or landscape painter, you know there's nothing that makes you want to grab your brushes and paint, more than a good bit of atmospheric perspective.

This painting will be included in the Plein Air Painters of the West show and sale at Segil Fine Arts in Monrovia, California. The show will run from October 18-25, 2008. For more information Click Here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September Song

September Song, 24X40", oil on stretched linen

Hi All,
This is my latest painting which I call, "September Song". I was inspired to do this painting during my last trip to the Rocky Mountains. That was in May, not September. But I came across this early morning scene and knew it would be perfect for an elk painting. The elk population is doing incredibly well in the park. In fact, you can't go very far without seeing herds of them grazing or walking. I have been to the Rockies in September which was when I heard my first elk call. They did echo up and down the canyons, particularly at dusk and again at dawn. So I set this painting in Autumn and added a bull elk with a full rack. The time is early morning and he has lifted his head to bugle his call. There is steam rising off his back and his breath is visible. Here is a closeup view of the elk:

It's such a joy to still be able to visit these wild places. I haven't decided where I will send this piece yet.For now, I'll keep it in my studio, turn it to the wall and put a little time and distance from me. Then I will see if there are any other tweaks it needs.

Thanks for checking in, Steve

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Painting: "Lunch Line"

Hi Everyone,
I've been painting furiously in the studio since I have a number of shows coming up soon. This is one of the paintings I'm going to send to Texas Art Gallery's Auction in November. Even though the auction isn't till November, the paintings are due in the middle of September.

Lunch Line, 24X40", oil on linen

Back in June, I spent a few days in Colorado. While there I met Ian, the wrangler for the ranch where I was staying. He was kind enough to allow me to follow him around snapping photo reference of him doing his everyday chores. This painting is a result of that day. Lunch time came around, and as he started filling the troughs with hay, the horses all took their places along the rail and waited. As he filled the troughs, it got pretty dusty. With the sun backlighting the scene, it fairly glowed with light. I knew when I was standing there that I would be painting this scene. I combined many photos to get this painting. A couple of photos for the background, the wrangler came from another and the horses were placed to best show off their individual colors and poses. I almost never get that perfect photo from which I can paint in the studio to make the scene I have in my head.

Sometimes naming a piece is harder than painting it. Once in a while I have the name nailed down before I start. Sometimes I come up with a name and think of a scene that fits it. But usually its a bit like giving birth. I think about it, let it develop in the back of my mind, but never force it. Thank goodness it doesn't take nine months for it to be born. Often times I'll discuss my ideas for names with my wife Ann. Sometimes she likes what I come up with, other times she just smiles at me (that's how I know I need to keep working on it). After a short brainstorming session, she came up with the name for this painting "Lunch Line". I knew when she said it, that it was the perfect name.

Along with a custom western frame from America West Frames and a name plate, the painting has the impact I first dreamed of when I was standing at the site. If you are a painter looking to take your painting to the next level, I've found a custom frame with a name plate is the way for me. I always love to look at paintings that have a name plate that tells you the name of the painting, along with the artist's name. It just feels so complete to me. Like a cherry on top of a sundae. After all, I like to think of the frame as an extension of the painting. If you choose the right one, you can make a good painting look great! The way an artist frames their paintings tells me a lot about what they think about themselves as an artist. If you put cheap frames on your work, it tells the world that even the artist doesn't think that much of it. Scott Christensen once told me that when he first started out, often the galleries would make more on one of his paintings than he would, because he would put the best frame on it that he could afford. Since artists pay for the frame themselves, the cost of the frame is taking that part of the profit directly off the top. But your paintings will show much better and in the long run, your reputation will grow because of it. Collectors of art aren't just informed on art, they also know frames. So do yourself and your legacy a favor and put the best frame you can on your painting.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Who's Your Daddy

"Whos Your Daddy", 20X24" oil on canvas, ©2008

Hi Everybody,
I did this painting as a result of my recent trip to the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. This ranch, which is located in the heart of Texas Hill Country, is rich in history and animals. In addition to the exotics that roam the 50,000 acres, like Giraffe, wildebeest and camel, they have lots of longhorn cattle as well. If you've never been close up to one of these bulls, you can find yourself pretty intimidated by their size and power. Everything about them shouts power and nobility. Instantly recognizable, Longhorn cattle are prized for the size of their horns. Horn spreads have been recorded over seven feet! These calves were following their daddy and sticking pretty close to him. But they also were pretty interested in me. I did my best to keep a healthy distance from them, since all animals can be pretty unpredictable when it comes to their young.

My aim in this painting, beyond showing the bond between this bull and what I assume were his offspring, was to convey the heat of a Texas day. The sun is so bright that everything fairly glows. I love the boxy lines of cattle, especially the longhorn variety. I can see why Texas is so in love with these animals. They are a ball to paint!

Thanks for looking

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Native Dancer 1, new series has started

Hi Everyone,
it's time for another post! I finished this one yesterday and am excited to have begun a series of native dancers that I've been thinking about for some time. Last week Ann and I had some of our extended family from Norway make the trip to Minnesota. They stayed with us for a long weekend before moving on to stay with other family members. When we asked them what they wanted to do while here, they told us without hesitation that a pow wow was a must. Luckily the Ojibway (Chippewa) were having one of theirs that weekend. It lit the fire under me to begin this series while it was still fresh in my mind. Man, those drumming circles are LOUD! I bought a CD of indian drumming at the pow wow and played it while I painted this piece.

This painting is all about the rhythm, balance, color and energy the pow wow dancers display. No unnecessary details here to distract from the focus. Just pure joyous abandon (just like in painting). It was a ball to paint. I discovered that when you photograph the dancers, often times they are obscured by so much fringe and movement. Usually you can't tell what the dancer is doing. You can't simply paint what you see, but must simplify and construct something out of which our eyes can make some sense. You must paint what you know, not what you see. That's the challenge on a painting like this. So much of this painting is about feel and intuition. You have to feel when it's right and when it's finished. I could have easily allowed myself to overwork it. I also wanted a more energetic and abstract background than I usually paint.

Thanks for looking, Steve

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Three plein airs from trip to Rocky Mountain National Park trip

Hello everyone,
I'm posting three of the paintings I did on location in the Rocky Mountain National Park, June 9-14. The first is a view of Twin Sisters peak as seen from across Lily Lake. As I painted this, there was a chipmunk who could smell the energy bar I had in my backpack. These critters are so tame that he grew brave enough to jump onto my lap and beg for a piece of my bar.

The Twin Sisters, 9X12 oil on linen panel

the second painting was painted at Mary Lake outside of Estes Park, Co.

Mary Lake Shoreline, 8X10 oil on linen panel

The third painting was done along the Trail Ridge Road at the Ute trail trailhead, in the Rocky Mountain National Park. According to the signpost nearby, prehistoric people used this path thousands of years ago. The Utes and Arapaho indians used the trail to cross from their Winter to Summer grounds. The trail led trappers and prospectors across the Rockies in the 1800's. All of this took place at an altitude of about 10,500 feet. The wind was blowing so hard that I had to sit in my car to paint it, so I wouldn't be blown over the cliffs. Being from Minnesota, where the tallest thing around are the buildings, I was pretty happy when I finished this one and could move on. Trail Ridge Road peaks at about 12,110 feet. I made it to 11,800 feet before the wind felt like it would blow the car over the side of the mountain and I turned around. The day before the park service had closed the road due to high winds.

Rocky Mountain Pass, 6X8 oil on linen panel

I always have a great time in Colorado and I can't wait to get back there again. Next time I think I'll go later in the season. Estes Park had gotten three inches of snow the day we arrived which was June 6th. I would have thought the snow was done for the season, but I guess winter goes slowly that high up. I'm really glad I over packed and brought along some warm clothing with me.


One final note. When Ann and I were driving from the Denver Airport to Estes Park, we passed through Boulder. During our breakfast we noticed that there was a western art museum a few blocks away and decided to stop in. I didn't know anything about the Leanin' Tree Museum, but immediately knew we had stumbled onto something special from the moment we arrived.

The Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art in Boulder, Colorado, exhibits the private art collection of Ed Trumble, Founder and Chairman of Leanin’ Tree, Incorporated, publisher of fine art greeting cards since 1949. His collection was born of a passion for American western art that has spanned five decades and continues to grow today. The scope and quality of this rare collection will surprise you. As we walked around, we were stunned by the scope and quality of this man's collection. Over the past 50 years he has assembled a virtual who's who of western art and shares it with the public (and here's the best part) free of charge. He doesn't charge a nickel for you to see it! Not only does he have a wonderful collection of paintings, but there is an incredible sculpture garden as well, with some monumental bronzes. There are 250 paintings and 150 bronzes by some of the west's art masters. If you are ever in or near Boulder Colorado, do yourself a favor and take an hour or so and treat yourself to this visual feast. I promise you that it will stay with you for a long time to come. While you're there take a moment to say hello to Sara, the museum's curator. The museum is lucky to have her.

Till next time, thanks for looking, Steve

Thanks for looking, Steve

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Painting, "Rocky Mountain Fall"

Rocky Mountain Fall, 9X12 oil on linen panel

Hello Everyone, thanks for checking in. I've been working on some larger studio paintings lately. I've not been able to get outdoors more than once or twice since returning from Texas and I miss it. But the cure is on the way because I will be heading to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado this week. Part of the reason for the trip is to attend a family member's wedding, the other part is to be able to bring my paints and camera and get some quality on location painting time. The last time I went I was just getting started at plein air painting. I wasn't yet ready to tackle the complexities of the mountain vistas. I'm really excited for this trip. I did this painting as sort of a warm up to painting there. I handled it much as I would any on location subject and gave myself a limited amount of time to complete it. The next morning I touched up a couple of areas.

Happy Painting, Steve

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Recent painting trip to Texas Hill Country

Looking to the West, 8X10, oil/linen board

This painting was done as a result of my recent painting trip to Kerrville and the Texas Hill Country in Mountain Home, Texas. I spent five days painting and taking reference there two weeks ago. I wish it had been longer. While there I stayed at the YO Ranch and had hoped to be able to wander the private ranch, which has exotic animals such as wildebeast, camel and giraffe on the grounds. Not to mentions thousands of deer and cattle. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to roam the ranch freely, since it is also a hunting ranch, where hunters pay lots of money to visit and kill these animals ( not the camels and giraffes though). Next time I'll probe a little deeper about the ranch rules. I figured with 50,000 acres, there would be plenty of room for me. Oh well, live and learn. But the people there were wonderful and helped direct me to lots of beautiful places at which I could paint. This painting was done back in my studio though, right after I got back home. I took the photo on my way back to my cabin after a long day spent painting in the field. I was beat and couldn't have done another painting if my life depended on it. So I stopped the car and stood by the side of the road and just took it all in. Of course I took some pictures, but that only took a moment. The rest of the time I watched, I took mental notes on the color temp shifts and the values. So many artist's I talk to talk about doing the same thing all the time. They are constantly noticing the complexity in the colors of nature. About how she balances out the warms and the cools. How marvelous it is to really look at the way God has mixed it all up so that it all makes perfect sense when you are experiencing it, but how difficult it is to invent it out of your imagination back in the studio. There are subtleties there that seem to be insignificant, but if you leave them out, your work will always have an amateurish quality about it. That's why I paint on location. It's information you can gain no other way. It teaches me every time, how little I know, and how I understand even less.

Fishing the Llano River (field study), 6X8, oil/linen panel

I did this painting on location on the same trip. I did 10-12 paintings while there, but I only brought a few home with me as carry on. The rest I Fedexed home along with my easel and paints. I'm still waiting for that box to arrive. This was a beautiful spot along the South Llano river which runs through Junction, Tx. I started the painting without the figures, and about half way through, these fishermen came along and make a perfect focal point for this piece. I'm going to start putting more figures in my on location work. They add so much to a painting I think. I love that the main figure in this one is setting the hook. A little action in a painting can be such a good thing.

Morning Texas Pasture (field study), 6X12, oil/linen panel

This was also a plein air piece. There were cattle that dotted the far pasture, and I might add them to a larger studio painting of this. But this one's size made me a little hesitant to try to do that. I love back lit landscapes. That's why I do so many of them. This one was my first piece of the day and I couldn't have asked for a better subject. I was just off the highway, where no one goes slower than 70mph. It's good training for being able to block distractions out while you paint. If you can concentrate while Semi's blow by you, hell bent for leather, then you're ready for all the crowds you attract while painting on location. No doubt.

Thanks for looking, Steve

Friday, May 23, 2008

Joanna Van Gogh and the power of One

Robert Genn is an artist who sends out a weekly blog/newsletter to which I subscribe. His recent post was about Joanna Van Gogh. Joanna was Theo's wife, who survived both of them. Now, most people in the arts are well familiar with Vincent's and Theo's story. Theo was not just Vincent's brother. He was also his link to the world, his confidant, his funding source, as well as his art dealer. It's impossible to put too much value on what Theo has done for the art world by preserving his genius brother's work. Not to mention the invaluable record of Vincent's inner thoughts, dreams and philosophy through the letters they exchanged over the years. However, a story that is almost unknown is the importance of Joanna's dogged determination to have Vincent's work recognized for the Genius that is was. We have Joanna to thank for single handedly championing Vincent's work after his death, and Theo's death a mere six months later. This story illuminates better than any I've heard about the importance of family, as well as the difference one determined person can make on the world. Enjoy...


Joanna Van Gogh

Robert Genn's Twice Weekly Letter
Insight and inspiration for your artistic career.

Dear Artist,

Vincent van Gogh died in 1890. Theo van Gogh, art dealer and brother of Vincent, died six months later, in 1891. Johanna, Theo's wife, inherited all the shop remainders including virtually all of Vincent's work. She soon moved with her small son from Paris to Bussum near Amsterdam. Johanna, age 29, went into distribution mode.

Reading the brothers' correspondence, she became convinced of her brother-in-law's genius and set about to do the right thing by him. "I am living wholly with Theo and Vincent," she wrote in her diary, "Oh, the infinitely delicate, tender and loving quality of that relationship." Placing work in various commercial galleries in the Netherlands, she also arranged for the gifting of works to strategic museums. It was hard going at first--people laughed at Vincent's work. The critics were skeptical at best, but in the end her writings and her persistent, visionary advocacy fanned the Vincent flames. She typed and revised the Theo-Vincent letters, finally publishing many of them in Dutch in 1914. When she died in 1925, she was still working on letter 526. Johanna also assisted in publishing a handbook for detecting Vincent forgeries.

In the "all's well that ends well" story of artists' lives and successes, there are worthwhile prerequisites. Some artists try some of them so the fruits of their labour can be enjoyed while their creators are still walking around. Vincent, who never saw a guilder from his art, had benefit of all five of the prerequisites:

Distinctive, recognizable style
Limited supply (200, plus drawings)
Controlled distribution (one caring person in charge)
Story (failure, poverty, passion, health issues, ear-off)
Tragic, preferably early, end (shot himself, age 37)

A dose of nepotism helps too. The van Goghs and the Bongers (Johanna's maiden name) were educated, professional, well connected and upwardly mobile. Vincent was the black sheep. It was Vincent's publisher-uncle C. M. van Gogh who was first in print with Vincent's story. Another uncle designed the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Johanna was herself a sensitive, literate yet practical type who spoke and wrote beautifully in three languages. After thirty years of hard work, she finally and graciously consented to allow England's National Gallery to buy Vincent's "Sunflowers."

Best regards,


PS: "Everything is but a dream!" (Johanna van Gogh, 1891)

Esoterica: It may take bereavement, another generation, or a canny dealer to see preciousness and perhaps value in a body of work. The combination of hoarding and distribution is part of the art. Work should not be too readily released or made commonly available to just anyone. Stratospheric prices come after the groundwork is laid. After that, as in the National Gallery, "Sunflowers" are now made available on mugs, calendars, shirts and brassieres. Theo and Vincent now lie side by side in the cemetery at Auvers-sur-Oise. If those two idealists hear about those mugs, they'll be rotisserating in their graves.


Incidentally, Bob Dylan's song "Visions of Joanna" found on the 1966 album Blonde on Blonde, was about Joanna Van Gogh and her single handed vision of what Vincent's work could mean to all of us.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Two Western Landscapes

Juniper Lake Study, 6X8, oil on linen panel

Mountain Snowmelt Runoff, 6x12, oil on linen panel

Hi Everyone,
I'm posting a couple of the smaller paintings I recently finished. Both are scenes in Wyoming, but are very different in their mood. The first is a lake near Yellowstone toward the end of the day. The second is early in the morning looking almost directly into the sun. That one is outside of Jackson Hole on the way to Yellowstone. I never get tired of the landscapes around the Jackson Hole area. I bet a person could spend several lifetimes painting it and still only scratch the surface.

Thanks for looking, Steve

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Art Auction, May 9-10, 2008

Since I'm going to be participating in my first art auction in less than a week, I thought it would be a good idea to post my entry here and talk about it a little. I called this painting, "Sizing Up The New Hand". I had the idea of wondering what it is like for a cowboy who shows up for his first day on the job. Cowboys, being like everyone else, would be curious about their new co-worker. But Cowboys, being like nobody else, wouldn't sneak a peek at him. They would just look. No Bull, no pretenses, and no fear. Even the dog gets in on the once over. I made sure that the new guy's jeans were clean (and still blue), and his shirt was pressed. The other cowboys clothes have long since given up the ghost when it comes to looking new. After all, this is a working ranch.

The Auction, which will take place on Saturday, May 10, 2008, will be hosted by Texas Art Gallery and held at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Dallas Texas. The preview starts at 6:00 pm and the auction itself will begin at 7:30.

In addition, there will be a fixed price draw at the Gallery on Friday, May 9th, 2008. Draw will be held at 8pm. I have three pieces in the draw. The first is:

Morning Has Broken, 11X14, oil on linen panel

Mixed Team Roping, 13X20, Charcoal on Strathmore

Two Seconds To Go, 21X14, Charcoal on Strathmore

Ann and I are excited to get to meet the Gallery staff and Collectors. It's a chance to meet some pretty wonderful people who all love Art just as much as we do. Everyone at TAG (Texas Art Gallery), has been so very good to us. This gives us a chance to put faces to names. Not to mention, having the opportunity to meet the people who collect art and give people like me the ability to live my passion every day. We've had a chance to look over the Set Price Draw and Auction catalog, and we're excited to get to see some pretty wonderful art. I'll check in after the event and let you know how things went.

I'll be doing a bit of painting in the Hill Country after the event, so I would appreciate any tips on where to visit!!

Till next time, Steve

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Clouds Over Texas, new painting

Clouds Over Texas, 9X12, oil on linen board
Texas Art Gallery, 800.783.4278

Hi Everyone,
I finished this painting recently. When I was in Texas last May, I was struck by the incredible cloud formations. When I moved to Minnesota from Ohio, I thought Minnesota had wonderful skies, and they do. But then I experienced Arizona Skies and thought they were the best. But nowhere have I seen such beautiful skies, day after day, as I did in Texas that weekend. Unfortunately I was in town for only a short time and I wasn't able to do any on location painting. So I took lots of photos. Back in the studio, six months later, and working from several photos, I came up with this scene along one of their many rivers. I decided to make it a late day scene and make the bottom half of the trees in shadow. Setting the painting at this time of the day allows me to play up the saturated colors that make these skies as interesting as they were. In the original photo of the river that I used, there were some uninteresting rock formations on the left hand side, which I replaced with the shrubs on the foreground shore.

Thanks for looking, Steve

Monday, April 28, 2008

New PA's for April 2008

Hi Everyone,
It had been almost six months since I had been out painting on location. I've been painting every day in my studio/dungeon, but I had gallery commitments to fulfill, not to mention making the transition of illustrating full time to painting full time in February. Lord, I can't believe how much time is not spent painting, when you start painting full time, LOL. But the change is behind me and I got out of the studio this past month more than a few times. Needless to say, on location painting in April in Minnesota isn't always the most pleasant experience, but it beats working for a living!! I ain't complainin'

Here are a few of the paintings from the past sessions....

A Change in Direction, 6X8
This is the first painting I did after my self imposed extended break.

A Fresh Blanket of Snow, 8X10
Painted on April Fool's day. It had snowed heavily all night and there were paintings everywhere I looked. Every branch was bent with a thick layer of snow. It warmed up so quickly that there was so much less snow when I finished this study than when I started it.

Outstanding In His Field, 9X12
Painted on what I thought was the Minnesota Arboretum's property. That is, until the farmer that owned the field came out with his very upset dog and asked my why I was out standing in his field. Luckily, he was nice enough to let me stay and finish.

April's Melt, 9X12
This painting was done in the afternoon of the same day as "Fresh Blanket of Snow". This is how quickly the snow had melted off in just a few hours. I was standing in what must have been a direct flight path of Canada Geese, as there seemed to be an unending stream of them flying by all afternoon.

Late Winter Shoreline, 6X8
This was the final painting for the day. I wanted to do a quick study, so I did what I call a guerilla painting. I give myself 40-45 minutes to get down the essence of the scene. Quickly decide on the focal point (which in this case was the oak tree in the upper left third of the painting), winter came so quickly here, that this tree was still holding onto it's yellow leaves. Everything else is simplified and subordinated to it. I love starting the day doing these quick studies to loosen up. I'll also do them at the end of a day, if I feel that I was spending too much time concentrating on details which only hurt the painting in the long run.

Happy Painting, Steve

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Walk Softly, finished version

Update: "Walk Softly"was sold at the Bosque Conservatory Art Classic in Clifton, Tx. The collectors who bought the painting told me that they loved the painting and also loved being able to follow the creative progress, and was part of the reason they decided to purchase it. ---S.

Hi All,
I decided to put my painting, Walk Softly against the wall for a while and come back to it with a fresh eye. When I look at something for too long, my perception becomes stale and the problems with the painting are tough to see. Even if the problem is a glaring one, you can miss it. Taking a break allows me to see things much more clearly.
When I put the painting back on the easel, I knew what I had to address. The painting was too warm all over, even the greens. There was no difference between the temps in the clearing he was standing in, and the trees behind him. Also, the coloring made the painting too ominous. The subject matter of this weapon is adult enough without playing it up in the colors. Here is the version before I made any changes...

Previous Version

New Revised Version

As you can see, when you compare the new version to the old one, the changes are pretty significant. I made the colors more true to life and believable. I also repainted the blades on the warclub. They had grown pretty big as I had painted on them and were out of scale with the weapon. The other thing I was unhappy with was how I had applied the paint. It's now much more painterly and exciting to look at. Now I can say it's finished. It's a perfect example of not rushing a painting out of the studio. If there is ever anything that doesn't please you in your work, give it time to rest and come back to it with a fresh eye. Richard Schmid advises to never leave anything on your canvas that you know is wrong. Sage advice to be sure. I would add to that.... to give yourself a little time to live with a painting to find out what those things may be. Once you let the painting out of the studio, it's kind of like going to the top of a mountain and releasing a handful of feathers. You can't ever get them back again, no matter how hard you try.

Happy Painting, Steve

Monday, January 21, 2008

Horseback Along the Virgin River

Hi Everyone,
I finally got around to posting. I've been busy on a large painting and it's taken up most of my painting time. But, thanks to my friend Jacquelyn, who lit a fire under me, I committed to doing a painting for the Zion National Park competition. This is my attempt to convey the grandeur of Zion Canyon. If you look very closely along the shadowed side of the river, you will see three dark figures. Two riders on horseback and their trusty dog. They were added to try to give extra impact to the scale. It was difficult to paint them small enough. I kept having to redo them because they always ended up too big. Everything I did, from the lighting and shadow of the cliff from the opposite canyon wall, to the river and trees are doing everything I can to point you to those tiny tiny figures in this vast landscape. That's also why I've given the painting the name that I have. It lets you know that there's something extra worth looking for.

Thanks for looking, Steve